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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Commercial flights between Colombia and Venezuela

Commercial flights between Colombia and Venezuela resumed Monday as relations between South American neighbors improve after the election of Colombia’s first left-wing president.

The first flight connecting the two countries was operated by Turpial, an airline owned by a retired Venezuelan Air Force Coronel. Satena, which is owned by the Colombian Air Force, will operate the second inter-country flight, which will take off from Bogota International Airport on Wednesday.

A one-way ticket for the 90-minute flight between Caracas and Bogota is sold on Turpial’s site for $240, a fee that’s about 12 times Venezuela’s monthly minimum wage. The cheapest one-way tickets on Satena’s website sell for $300.

Several airlines have applied to operate the route between Bogota and Caracas, including Latam, the largest airline in Latin America, and Wingo, a budget airline owned by Copa Holdings.

So far, only Turpial, Satena and Venezuelan airline Laser have permits from Venezuelan officials to operate the route.

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Venezuelan state airline Conviasa had been granted a license to operate flights between the two countries in September, but it was withdrawn by Colombian authorities after a complaint from the US government. Conviasa was sanctioned by the US in 2020, along with dozens of Venezuelan officials accused of committing human rights abuses.

After Conviasa was denied permission to operate on the route, Venezuelan officials canceled a license granted to Wingo to operate flights in October.

Venezuela cut diplomatic ties with Colombia in 2019 after the then-conservative government backed US-led efforts to force Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to hold new elections. But flights between Colombia and Venezeuela functioned normally until the pandemic broke out in 2020 and airports across South America were closed.

In September, Colombia and Venezuela restored diplomatic relations after the election of leftist Gustavo Petro as Colombia’s president. Petro has kept Colombia from trying to isolate Maduro, whose re-election in 2018 was deemed fraudulent by dozens of countries.

Colombia’s new president is seeking to cooperate with Maduro on trade and security issues and has sought Venezuela’s support in peace talks with the National Liberation Army, a rebel group operating on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border.

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