Colombia, Venezuela open binational bridge in step to normalize relations

Caracas/Cucuta, Jan 1 (EFE).- The governments of Colombia and Venezuela on Jan. 1 opened the binational Atanasio Girardot Bridge, also known as “Tienditas,” which links Colombia’s Norte de Santander province with the Venezuelan state of Tachira, an event constituting one more step in normalizing bilateral relations.

Diplomatic relations, which were broken in February 2019, were reestablished at the end of last August and bilateral trade was resumed on Sept. 26 with the reactivation of two other border bridges, the Simon Bolivar and the Francisco de Paula Santander spans.

The ceremony on New Year’s Day included the cutting of a tricolor ribbon in the middle of the Atanasio Girardot Bridge by the Colombian representatives, specifically Trade, Industry and Tourism Minister German Umaña and Transportation Minister Guillermo Reyes, along with Norte de Santander Gov. Sivano Serrano and the mayors of the metropolitan area of Cucuta.

The Venezuelan delegation at the event included Tachira Gov. Freddy Bernal and other officials, who released yellow, blue and red balloons along with the Colombians as a symbol of union and a new beginning between the two nations.

“This is the formal opening of the border with Colombia, along the whole frontier geography, something that we’re symbolically doing at this spot. Let the opening, today, be the road to a long reencounter of brotherliness, growth and prosperity for both nations, Colombia and Venezuela,” Bernal said.

For his part, Umaña said that “Today a (more than century-old) dream of border integration is being realized.”

“The opening of this bridge between our two nations has been planned since the 1960s. Perseverance alone has born fruit for those of us who have believed in this integration, which is not only commercial but is also uniting our societies in a single country, in a single nationality. Today, we start down the road of closing the social gaps that exist between the centers of our country and our borders,” the Colombian minister said.

The Atanasio Girardot Bridge, which crosses the Tachira River, consists of six lanes for vehicular traffic and links the metro area of Cucuta with the city of Pedro Maria Ureña, in Tachira, and although it was finished in 2016, it has never been placed into service since its finalization coincided with the period of deterioration in bilateral relations.

Since the beginning of December, however, when the “complete reopening” of the border was announced, Venezuela has performed remodeling and restoration work on the bridge that began with removing the containers that had been placed on the bridge as a barrier almost four years ago amid the political tensions between Caracas and then-Colombian President Ivan Duque.

During Sunday’s ceremony, the general secretary of Colombia’s Foreign Ministry, Jose Antonio Salazar, said that work was also under way to reopen “as quickly as possible the consulates in San Cristobal, Maracaibo and San Antonio,” among others.

After the protocol events, the bridge was opened to international cargo and passenger transport.

Technical teams from the two countries, with personnel from several ministries and official entities, defined the requirements and conditions under which vehicles and drivers may pass through different border crossing points, including insurance, licensing and identification documents.

“On this bridge that marks history, the brotherhood of our countries is being reopened,” said the Colombian transportation minister, who emphasized that in less than five months the government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro had taken the necessary steps to guarantee the full opening of the four border crossing points located in Norte de Santander.

EFE –/bp

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