Why do US sanctions against the Maduro government restrict relations with Colombia?

Venezuela sanctions
A truck crosses the Simon Bolivar Bridge from Venezuela during the process of reopening the Colombia-Venezuela border in Cúcuta. Photo: EFE/Mario Caicedo

Clearly restoring Colombian-Venezuelan relations would be a somewhat difficult way to start, at least in its entirety. The US sanctions against the government of Nicolás Maduro, which also affect companies and individuals in Venezuela, will be a stumbling block and put the triangle of Washington, Caracas and Bogota in trouble, especially the latter.

Both countries – in their own way – showed an interest in resuming the broken relationship. The official reopening of the border proved it, but the setback regarding flights between the two capitals appears to be the tip of the iceberg of the depth involved with regard to Venezuela.

Colombia is not Iran, Russia or China, which operates without much thought in the United States. On the contrary, it is an important ally in Latin America but wants to integrate its neighbor again not only in the trade balance, but also in the region.


The first dispute is because of these sanctions imposed by the so-called Clinton Listunder the supervision of the Office of Asset Control (OFAC) arises from the impossibility of the Conviasa State’s first flight to Bogota.

Since 2020, the airline has imposed the penalty. At the time, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “the illegitimate Maduro regime relies on Conviasa to move corrupt officials around the world, to garner support for its anti-democratic efforts.”

Conviasa will be the first airline to fly to Colombia to restore relations. Photo: Facebook, Conviasa

Therefore, there is a will between Venezuela and Colombia to normalize their relationship as much as possible, but there is tension between the United States and Venezuela. He added that if it continues in this way, which is more likely, if it is very possible that the continuation of the sanctions will obstruct the intentions of normalizing relations. the timeMiguel Velardi is an economist and political consultant.

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For Carlos Paparoni, a deputy in the National Assembly in 2015 who investigated corruption cases related to the Maduro government, he sees the situation between Colombia and Venezuela as going beyond the political scenario, because he believes that for the neighboring country “it would be wrong for these companies linked to money laundering to enter the system Colombian.

“I think it’s Maduro’s question to see how he enters this system.”

Gustavo Petro during the reopening of the border with Venezuela. Photo: Presidency of the Republic

Punishment of 45 companies

There are 45 companies subject to sanctions on OFAC’s list, which, in addition to Conviasa, includes entities such as the Central Bank of Venezuela, Banco de Venezuela, Banco Bicentenario, the National Institute of Water and Insular Spaces, Petroleos de Venezuela, and other providers of supplies and services.

“One of the concerns is whether Colombia will ease protections for its banks, and whether it will allow system administrators to open accounts,” Paparoni comments. the timenoting that in the United States there are 32 open court cases for money laundering through PDVSA which add up to about $16,000 million, so he does not believe Conviasa’s operations toward Colombia will be resolved at this time.

For Miguel Velarde, the airlines are a sign of the interest Colombia will have when approaching its neighbour. “The Petro government has given the first indications that it will not risk the consequences of the violation of these sanctions by Venezuela.”

Cause of stress

And the example of Conviasa could extend to other entities, or so the political scientist Anderson Sequeira thinks. “Colombian companies will be very careful about excessive compliance with sanctions. In other words, when they are in doubt, they would rather lose business than end up being punished. This could be a source of tension between the Petro administration and President Biden.”

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Although there are already ambassadors appointed for both capitals, the borders have been launched and there are plans for the future, but not everything is clear about what the route for travel between Colombia and Venezuela will look like.

* The Grupo de Diarios América (GDA), to which El Nacional belongs, is a leading media network founded in 1991 that promotes democratic values, independent journalism and freedom of expression in Latin America through quality journalism for our audience.

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