Derelict consulate reflects years of strain between Colombia and Venezuela

By Jorge Gil Angel

Bogota, Sep 1 (EFE).- Without doors or windows, its walls covered with graffiti, the Venezuelan Consulate in the Colombian capital is in ruins, and though the two neighbors have renewed diplomatic relations, the process of normalization has a long road to travel.

The vandalized structure with a trash-strewn lawn sticks out like a sore thumb in the upscale north Bogota neighborhood.

The lone police officer standing guard is in no position to keep out intruders or even to stop passers-by from dumping garbage, including – on the occasion of Efe’s visit – a used tire.

Links between Caracas and Bogota have been troubled for years and the relationship broke down entirely in 2019, when the right-wing Colombian government recognized the opposition congressional speaker as the legitimate president of Venezuela and labeled head of state Nicolas Maduro as a usurper.

Colombia’s consulate in Caracas remained intact during the rupture, newly appointed Colombian Ambassador Armando Benedetti said after arriving in the Venezuelan capital.

In April, the Venezuelan government submitted a formal complaint about a fire at the consulate in Bogota as a result of “permanent vandalization” and demanded that Colombia’s then-president, Ivan Duque, render “due respect and protection” to Venezuela’s diplomatic missions.

The ceilings of the building still bear traces of the fire and the graffiti on the internal walls are accompanied by clothing and mattresses apparently belonging to homeless people.

All of the furniture was stolen within months of the diplomatic breach, to be followed by the windows, doors and other fixtures.

Efe’s outing to the consulate on Thursday coincided with a visit by a team from the Venezuelan Embassy tasked with making an evaluation as a prelude to repairs and renovation.

The new Venezuelan envoy to Colombia, Felix Plasencia, said this week that restoring the consulate and other diplomatic outposts would be a priority.

“We are going to recover the spaces. Regrettably, some were vandalized. We’re going to recover them. That is the job, that is the duty and I’m here to do it,” Plasencia said. EFE jga/dr

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