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I am ready to hold serious conversations with Venezuela, but provided that the human rights of our fellow citizens are never violated again: President Santos

• At the end of the Cabinet Council, President Juan Manuel Santos revealed that he accepted the good offices offered by the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vásquez, to facilitate the dialogue between Colombia and Venezuela.

• The Head of State reiterated that the Government of Colombia will continue resorting to diplomacy and dialogue, and will be attentive to the possibility of a bilateral conversation, provided it is serious and constructive.

• In his statement, President Santos highlighted the diplomatic efforts undertaken by Foreign Affairs Minister María Ángela Holguín, and the progress made in the aid that is being provided to the Colombian deportees, many of whom are starting to leave the shelters and returning to their places of origin.

• He stated that no additional deportations have been recorded over the past few days and highlighted the humanitarian corridor that has allowed students to return to the educational institutions in Norte de Santander.

• Likewise, the Head of State referred to the work of the Colombian Law Enforcement authorities against smuggling, criminal gangs and crime in general in the border zone.

Bogotá, September 7, 2015 (SIG).

“I am ready to hold conversations, but provided that the fundamental rights, the human rights of our fellow citizens, are never violated again”, President Santos said at the conclusion of the Cabinet Council session held this Monday at the Casa de Nariño.

In reference to the situation in the border with Venezuela, the Head of State reiterated that the Government of Colombia will continue resorting to diplomacy and dialogue and will be attentive to the possibility of bilateral conversations, provided they are serious and constructive.

“We will continue resorting to diplomacy and dialogue and will be attentive to the possibility of bilateral conversations, provided they are serious and constructive, and provided they imply a bilateral agenda to fight against smuggling, against crime, and to improve the living conditions of the population on both sides of the border”, he stated.

Furthermore, he said that he believes that it is possible to “turn this regrettable situation into an opportunity to fight crime and invigorate the border region”.

President Santos stated that Colombia, as its conduct has always been, “prioritizes the solution of problems with other nations through dialogue and diplomacy”. In that sense, he reminded that “since the day they closed the border, I have wanted to speak with President Maduro, but it has not been possible”.

The Head of State made reference to the diplomatic efforts of the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, María Ángela Holguín.

“Today, our Foreign Minister visited Geneva, Switzerland, to inform the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights about the situation; and tomorrow she will travel to New York to report the situation to the UN Secretary General”, he said.

Uruguay’s good offices

Additionally, the Head of State reveled that he accepted the good offices offered by the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vásquez, to facilitate the dialogue between Colombia and Venezuela.

“Last week I received a telephone call from the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vásquez, who offered his good offices to facilitate dialogues with Venezuela. I accepted his offer. And I told him that I was willing to hold this meeting even in Montevideo, if he deems it necessary, provided the minimum conditions we have established are met”, the President explained.

“I reiterate my willingness to meet with President Maduro, where, through a serious and respectful dialogue, we may solve the problems in the border that affect both Colombians and Venezuelans”, President Santos emphasized.

Furthermore, he thanked “the countries and different bodies and opinion leaders who have offered to help in finding a prompt solution to this situation. That is also what the Government of Colombia wants”.

Progress at the border

In his statement, the Head of State said that, according to the Disaster Risk Management Unit, which is in charge of the situation of the deportees in Norte de Santander, “there are records of 13,962 people who have returned, including 1,443 deportees”.

He stated that 1,279 people have voluntarily left the shelters to travel to their places of origin. “Our priority is to have as much people prepared to leave the shelters as promptly as possible”, he said.

The President additionally informed that, according to Migración Colombia, “no deportations have been recorded over the past few days”, and that the latest deportation took place this past September 5.

Quoting data from the Ministry of Education, President Santos pointed out that “a humanitarian corridor was set up and more than 1,150 children were mobilized (to their educational institutions) through the Francisco de Paula Santander and Simón Bolívar bridges”.

He stated that Colombian soldiers and police officers have taken actions in the border to close illegal crossing paths through which goods are smuggled in and out of the country, achieving important results over the past days, including the following:

• 20 informal crossing paths have been disabled and 47 places are being intervened by the Law Enforcement authorities.

• Over the 19 days gone by since the border was closed, 60 people have been captured and goods have been seized amounting to over 2.8 billion pesos, plus 55 thousand gallons of fuel.

• Between January and July, 160 members of criminal gangs have been captured, many of them gang leaders, in the states bordering Venezuela.

“We are acting against smuggling and corruption, which take place on both sides of the border. It is a problem of the two countries and I reiterate what I have been saying up to now: we will be much more effective if we work together, with cooperation and transparency”, the President of the Republic concluded.