By Deisy Buitrago
and Mayela Armas
CARACAS, Nov 1 (Reuters) – The presidents of Colombia and Venezuela held their first bilateral meeting in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on Tuesday, where they discussed topics including trade, human rights and protecting the Amazon rainforest.
The neighbors’ fraught relationship has improved since Colombian President Gustavo Petro – the Andean country’s first leftist leader – took office in August on promises to fully restart trade with Venezuela.
The countries reopened a major crossing point to cargo transport between in late September and have each named ambassadors.
“It has been a fruitful first meeting, truly auspicious, with good results,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in a joint statement.
The two leaders discussed economic and trade relations, Maduro said, including strengthening cooperation over Monomeros, a Colombia-based fertilizer producer which is owned by Pequiven, itself a unit of Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA [RIC:RIC:PDVSA.UL].
They also discussed Venezuela’s return to the Andean Community (CAN) trade bloc, which includes Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.
Venezuela’s rejoining of the CAN would be “good news for South America,” Maduro said.
Colombia’s leader also urged Venezuela to reintegrate itself in the inter-American human rights system.
Advocacy group Human Rights Watch recently called on Colombia to use its restored diplomatic relations with Venezuela to help curb human rights violations there.
“We have asked the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to strengthen that system,” Petro said.
Venezuela is a guarantor country at Colombia’s talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels, which will resume in November.
Caracas broke off relations with Bogota in 2019 after Venezuelan opposition activists tried to send aid trucks from Colombia. Maduro’s government said it was a front for an attempted coup.
Previous governments in Bogota have accused Maduro of harboring Colombian rebel groups and criminals, accusations he has denied.
Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas in Caracas Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Oliver Griffin Editing by Leslie Adler