Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez hold a cordial phone conference, the latest sign of improving relations between the neighboring countries.
According to a statement from Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Santos started by thanking Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for Monday’s “capture of paramilitaries Hector German Buitrago Prada and Orlando Buitrago, wanted in Colombia for their connection to thousands of killings in the eastern plains of the country.”
The Colombian leader went on to celebrate the improved relations between the countries, specifically the $2 billion-worth of trade between the countries and their mutual commitment to “economic development, joint investment, and infrastructure projects like the Pacific oil pipeline and projects to navigate Meta and Orinocos river.”
This dialogue, along with Monday’s captures, mark a significant change in tone between the two countries. Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe often accused Venezuela of harboring and even funding the FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group. The two countries cut diplomatic ties several times and periods of extreme tension prompted international intervention. Relations seem to have normalized under Santos.
Defense ministers of the two countries will meet on Friday, and the presidents will meet personally in May.