Venezuela seeks to reestablish military relations with Colombia, says minister

Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez addresses the media at the Miraflores Palace, in Caracas, Venezuela February 11, 2022. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela will seek to reestablish its military ties with neighbor Colombia, the country's defense minister said on Tuesday, after years of conflictive relations between the two nations.

Venezuelan General Vladimir Padrino said he had received instructions from President Nicolas Maduro to contact Colombian Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez in order to "reestablish their military relations," according to the Venezuelan defense ministry's Twitter account.

Colombia's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The two countries are in the process of repairing diplomatic relations, after Caracas fully broke them off in 2019, following a U.S.-backed attempt by the Venezuelan opposition to move humanitarian aid into the country from Colombia, which Caracas regarded as aggression from Bogota.

A 2021 audit from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) found the former U.S. Trump administration's aid effort was not planned in alignment with humanitarian principles.

On July 28, Colombia's new government and Venezuela announced they would appoint ambassadors to the two countries' capitals after years without diplomatic relations and will work to boost security along their shared border.

Colombia and Venezuela share a 2,219-kilometer land border with dozens of irregular crossings and activities such as fuel and food smuggling, as well as drug trafficking. Previously, Colombian and Venezuelan officials have traded blame for the lack of security.

Colombia's newly appointed leftist President Gustavo Petro, however, has already announced his willingness to reestablish and normalize border crossings.

(This story corrects to say tweet was from defense ministry's account, not Padrino's account)

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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