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Chavez/Santos normalize trade and energy relations: “we need to work together”
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Chavez/Santos normalize trade and energy relations: “we need to work together”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos agreed on 2nd November to strengthen ties through energy projects as they sought to improve relations and leave behind recent bitter disputes.
The two presidents agreed to resurrect plans for a natural gas pipeline stretching from Venezuela to Central America and also revived a proposal to build an oil pipeline from Venezuela's oil fields to Colombia's Pacific coast.
Venezuela's state oil company will resume fuel sales to Colombian Border States and Chavez invited Colombian oil company Ecopetrol to seek a deal to pump oil in Venezuela's crude-rich Orinoco River basin.
“We've begun to build these relations,” Chavez said after spending more than three hours with Santos during the Colombian leader's first visit to Venezuela since taking office 7th August.
The agreements in energy, trade and other areas came after Chavez and Santos agreed in August to restore full diplomatic relations that had been severed as Santos' predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, prepared to leave office. Santos and Chavez have since pledged to repair trade relations undermined by years of accusations and mutual distrust.
Santos said the two countries have turned a corner. “We've gone from good-intentioned statements to concrete accords,” he said.
Santos said earlier, before his meeting with Chavez, that although Caracas and Bogota have had their differences, “we need to work together.”
“We will be brothers forever,” Chavez said of the two nations after receiving Santos at the presidential palace, where a military band played both national anthems and soldiers in colonial-era uniforms stood at attention.
Chavez feuded for years with Uribe and severed diplomatic ties in July in response to allegations that Venezuela's government has provided safe haven to leftist Colombian rebels. Chavez denies his administration turns a blind eye to guerrilla camps in Venezuelan territory.
Relations also hit a rocky patch in March 2008, when Chavez protested a Colombian cross-border bombing raid in Ecuador that killed a top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Santos was Uribe's defence minister at the time and ordered the operation.
Trade between the two nations, traditionally strong, (7 billion US dollars in 2008) fell drastically during Uribe's last year in office, as Chavez ordered officials to stop buying food from Colombia and signed agreements with allies such as Argentina and Brazil to replace Colombian imports.
Since this year's election in Colombia, however, both Santos and Chavez have sought rapprochement. “If we work together, our people will benefit. If we end up fighting, our people will end being hurt,” Santos said Tuesday. “I believe you and I, President Chavez, understand this.”
During the bilateral summit it was also announced that Venezuela had authorized payment of 336 million US dollars in debt to Colombian exporters as part of the rapprochement. The accord said Venezuela had so far recognized and would pay 336 million owed to Colombian exporters. Bogotá estimates exporters are owed about 800 million for unpaid products.

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