Duque meets with Panamanian President over bilateral trade and Venezuela

By Arjun Harindranath January 28, 2019

Colombian President Iván Duque meets with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela in Panama City. Photo by Nicolás Galeano for presidencia.gov.co

Following a mass held by Pope Francis on Global Youth Day, Colombian President  Iván Duque and his Panamanian counterpart Juan Carlos Varela met to speak in Panama City yesterday. The two leaders spoke for around 40 minutes speaking on a variety of issues ranging from trade and tourism to the worsening situation in Venezuela.

The Panamanian leader praised the short meeting with Duque, tweeting that it offered the two to speak on “issues of cooperation in matters of security and commercial relations, in addition to expressing our condolences for the attack [in Bogotá].”

“We will continue to strengthen the fight against illegal groups,” the Panamanian President also said.

The border between Colombia and Panama lies between the villages of Sapzurro and La Miel. Photo by Arjun Harindranath

As expected, a major issue between the two neighbours was of the worsening situation of Venezuela and its knock-on effects on Central and South American nations.

Since the economic crisis first hit Venezuela, well over 1 million people have fled the country for Colombia while Panama have taken in around 94,000 migrants according to a recent estimate by UNHCR.

At a town hall meeting on the island of San Andres on Saturday, President Duque affirmed that Colombia stood with the people of Venezuela, saying that “[t]hey are not alone, we are with you and we will continue working as a country to shake off the dictatorship and recover their liberties, their institutions, so that they can feel hope in their country,”

The Panamanian president has also continued to show his opposition to Maduro’s regime having sent no formal representative to the Venezuelan president’s second inauguration.

World leaders remain divided on Maduro’s future as many have issued support for Juan Guaidó following his announcement that he was now President of Venezuela. The US and Colombia quickly recognised the legitimacy of Guaidó as president.

Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea blocked a recent attempt by the Security Council statement that recognised the Venezuelan National Assembly as the only democratically elected institution.

Over the weekend, the EU and the UK issued an ultimatum to Venezuela for Maduro to call for a fresh round of elections by Sunday. If no elections are called the EU have threatened to follow the US and Colombia’s lead in recognising Juan Guaidó as interim President. At this stage, around 13 countries have recognised Guaido as interim President, including Panama.