Border Crisis: Colombia's Santos Sets Conditions for Meeting With Venezuela's Maduro
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is willing to meet his Venezuelan counterpart and discuss the border crisis only if President Nicolás Maduro establishes a "humanitarian corridor," allowing some 2,000 Colombian children to continue attending school despite the shutdown of border crossings.
The students reside in Venezuelan border towns but attend classes in Colombia, an arrangement no longer possible because Maduro has declared a state of emergency and shut down the checkpoints that previously united the two South American neighbors, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I want to tell president Maduro that I'm ready to meet with him, but that Colombians need their fundamental rights respected," Santos said in a televised speech. If these "minimum conditions are met, I will sit down and fix this problem," the Colombian president promised.
Meanwhile, Bogotá continued efforts to garner international support for its stance in the border standoff, Colombia Reports noted. Next week, Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín is set to meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the International Organization of Migration's high commissioner of human rights.
Maduro, for his part, has already held talks with Ban and the embattled Venezuelan leader defended his decision to deport thousands of Colombian nationals who had been living in his country for years.
"I explained to him, detail by detail, [that] we have a border with Colombia of [1,379 miles]," Maduro said. "The Colombian side is governed by paramilitaries, smugglers and drug traffickers, because [the Colombian government] abandoned the border. On the Venezuelan side, a territory free of drug production, but they placed paramilitaries," the socialist leader added.
Caracas said it, too, will likely turn to international organizations to seek support in the border row, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez told the semi-official Telesur television network. Her country could seek compensation for the more than 5 million Colombians who have settled in Venezuela due to violence and civil war in their home country, she argued.
Further, the "statements by Foreign Minister Holguín contain a combination of erratic inaccuracies, falsehoods and confessions of the state supporting crimes at the border," Rodríguez charged.