The logistical difficulties that customs operators foresee before the reopening of the Colombian-Venezuelan border

Photo: Mario Caicedo

 

The imminent resumption of diplomatic, commercial and political relations between Venezuela and Colombia, with the inauguration of Gustavo Petro as the new president of the brother country, starting on August 7th, has become the hope of businessmen in Táchira and Norte de Santander, who hope that the formal economy will be reactivated along this border.

By La Patilla – Luz Dary Depablos

Aug 3, 2022

Representatives of customs auxiliaries and international cargo transport from Táchira and customs and logistics operators from Norte de Santander, held a meeting in which they outlined strengths and weaknesses on which they must work, in order to achieve the restart of operations from the same conditions that have been maintained along the border between Paraguachón (Colombia) and Guarero (Venezuela), through which commercial exchange was never interrupted and where a large part of the operations that were carried out through the Táchira border crossings before 2015 migrated after the closure.

Álbaro Paz, president of the Heavy Cargo Chamber in Táchira, stated that on the Venezuelan side, although they are prepared for an immediate reopening, the conditions are not yet met with part of the transport sector, because due to the total paralysis of the units since 2019, they do not have the economic resources to invest more than 600 dollars to enable the units that already have expired permits.

It should be noted that the Colombian side does not pay for the authorization of international cargo transport to process their respective permits, that is, the collection is required only on the Venezuelan side, and if they do not comply with this requirement they must pay high fines, money they do not currently have. In addition, they would be excluded from carrying out international transport operations before the corresponding customs office.

 For this reason, Álbaro Paz asked his Colombian counterparts to serve as mediators before the national authorities of this country to allow during the first days of August, in the event that commercial exchange is reactivated immediately, an extension until the month December for vehicles that have expired authorizations in Venezuela and which are going to be reactivated in the transport of loads to operate as international transport, in order to be granted a “special treatment” so that they can work with the expired authorizations while they generate the money that would allow them to pay the rates required by the National Institute of Terrestrial Transit (INTT) which rates are set in petros.

Expired Permits

Vladimir Tovar, representative of the Táchira Heavy Cargo Transport union, also reported that the representatives of this union ratified for the third time to the Ministry of Transportation of the Nicolás Maduro regime through the INTT, the request for “special treatment to reactivate international transport operations, even with expired authorizations”.

In the previous petitions, the transport union had requested “the exemption of the applied rates and a payment plan for the processing of international transport permits,” said Mr. Tovar.

Nelson Ureña, President of the Táchira Customs Administration Association (Asoata), and Sandra Guzmán, President of the Colombian Federation of International Trade Logistics Agents (FITAC), recalled that the Partial Scope Agreement (APCOL 28) remains in force, signed on November 28th, 2011 before the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) by the presidents at the time, Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Chávez, after Venezuela left the Andean Community of Nations (CAN).

It should be noted that in August 2012, the Venezuelan parliament officially approved this agreement was published in the national register, and in October of that same year, the General Secretariat of ALADI issued as a legal mechanism the validity of the Partial Agreement for the Exchange of Goods between Venezuela and Colombia, which remains in force until the present, as has been demonstrated in the commercial relations that are carried out through La Guajira and Zulia.

Currently, the agreement establishes the binational interchange of Táchira through the Francisco de Paula Santander, Simón Bolívar and Unión international bridges. In addition, it is required that through the foreign ministries of both countries, the Tienditas bridge be enabled to expand the passage of goods.

Representatives of the customs union also propose that a coal route be established, from the city of Cúcuta – Agua Clara, via Puerto Santander, with a crossing to Guarumito and connection to the La Fría highway in Táchira State, in the direction of the maritime ports of the Southern Lake Maracaibo in Zulia State.

Internet Connection from Colombia

The businessmen also emphasized the computer systems that are used for customs procedures between the two countries. Sandra Guzmán remarked that these “continue to be enabled” since the first closure of the border seven years ago.

On the Venezuelan side, customs officials asked the Seniat authorities to release the IPs to access the platform from a Colombian internet connection, due to the constant failures in the local internet service and the blackouts that occur daily at the Táchira border, a request which was approved.

Nelson Ureña explained that they hope to operate through the Automated Customs System (Sidunea), while in Colombia, the Dian seeks to integrate all customs processes into a single system, that is, cargo, imports and exports.

Border Closures

It should be remembered that on August 19th, 2015, Nicolás Maduro unilaterally and arbitrarily ordered the closure of this border, after three Venezuelan military officials were injured in an alleged anti-smuggling operation.

The border specialist at the Universidad de Los Andes, Táchira campus, Francisco Sánchez, emphasized that more than 24,000 Colombians living on the border of San Antonio and Ureña were expelled to Colombia by order of Maduro. “Most of them fled along trails and the Táchira River, including people with refugee status.”

A year later, in September 2016, the passage of merchandise loads at night was reestablished, through the two international bridges that connect Táchira with Norte de Santander, which once again allowed binational trade to resume through these land crossings, except for international traffic that was not enabled and remains paralyzed.

Coal, which has been the most important item of this transit, did not operate again, although at the time it represented some 150,000 tons that transited this border monthly.

Two years later, in September 2018, Maduro’s regime again suspended exports only through this border, that is, through Paraguachón they were never closed, and in February 2019 when the entry of humanitarian aid was attempted, Chavismo closed the import operations, and since then international trade between Táchira and Norte de Santander has remained completely paralyzed.

The main actors of the productive, customs and business sector on both sides of the border hope that in the coming days relations will be restarted to recover formality over the bridges and thus combat the large-scale smuggling that passes daily through the illegal trails known as “trochas”, where they travel under the tolerance of both governments.

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