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The Colombian presidential campaign focuses on regions and borders

Cúcuta (Colombia), May 13 (EFE).- The campaign for the Presidency of Colombia focused this Friday on the regions and border areas, the great forgotten of the country and hit by the violence of the armed conflict, which received the visits of candidates with promises of development. Two of the main candidates, Federico «Fico» Gutiérrez, from the right-wing coalition Equipo por Colombia, and Sergio Fajardo, from Centro Esperanza, met in Cúcuta, the main border crossing with Venezuela and the capital of the department of Norte de Santander, where they one week he was also the first in the voting intention polls, the leftist Gustavo Petro, of the Historical Pact. In the Plaza de la Bandera, located next to the General Santander soccer stadium, «Fico» Gutiérrez promised that if he wins the Presidency, the same day of his inauguration, he will begin efforts to reopen the border with Venezuela, closed to the passage of vehicles since August. 2015 by order of the president of that country, Nicolás Maduro. «I want to announce that from August 7, from the first moment we take office as president of Colombia (…) we will enter into a discussion so that there is an economic opening of the border, of vehicular passage, and that this helps the families of Norte de Santander to recover jobs and opportunities,» he said. COMMERCIAL DYNAMICS Cúcuta is a city that has always lived from trade with Venezuela and its economy has been severely hit by the closure of the border, aggravated by the rupture of relations between the two countries ordered by Maduro on February 23, 2019 after the attempted of the opposition Juan Guaidó to enter at the head of a humanitarian caravan. However, the government of President Iván Duque, ideologically at odds with Maduro, has maintained a policy of distancing from Venezuela with the argument that a dictatorship rules in that country. «This (opening the borders) at no time means the recognition of a dictatorship like that of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela,» Gutiérrez said today, stressing that taking this step «is a way to alleviate the humanitarian crisis» between the two countries. The candidate pointed out that the one between Norte de Santander and the Venezuelan state of Táchira «was the most important border in economic and social terms, but because of the loss of democracy, which is what cannot happen to Colombia, they have already seen what ended up happening.» DEMOCRACY AND WELL-BEING «Once the democracies are gone, they don’t come back and here they do know that experience,» he added, referring to the arrival in the city of tens of thousands of Venezuelans seeking a better life outside their country. Gutiérrez, who was mayor of Medellín, Colombia’s second city, and defines himself as «a mountaineer,» promised Cucuteños: «We are going to work together from the regions, from what represents us.» In this sense, he affirmed that the Catatumbo region, also in Norte de Santander, and which is the focus of permanent conflict due to the actions of guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and drug traffickers, will receive attention from his government if he is elected president. «The state has to come to Catatumbo and social progress has to come,» said «Fico» Gutiérrez, who explained that the government’s response to the problems of public order in that region should not only be military but should take into account the needs of the people. FAJARDO’S PROPOSALS Earlier, the centrist Fajardo also visited the capital of Norte de Santander, who also promised that, if elected, he will turn his eyes to that department and especially to Catatumbo. Fajardo, a cycling fan, cycled 20 kilometers along with about a hundred athletes, from the Pinar del Río neighborhood to the village of La Garita, in the Los Patios municipality, which is part of the Cúcuta metropolitan area. «Employment, peace and security, these three articulated words will get Norte de Santander out of the problem it is in,» Fajardo said at a press conference, lamenting the fact that «Catatumbo is a forgotten region, used by politicking «. Fajardo also highlighted the need to reopen the international bridges that connect Colombia with Venezuela, countries that share a 2,219-kilometer border, much of it jungle and dominated by illegal armed groups. Voting intention polls for the May 29 elections place the leftist Petro in first place, with «Fico» Gutiérrez in second, the independent populist Rodolfo Hernández in third and Fajardo in fourth, but it is highly likely that a second will be necessary. return between the first two, which would be played on June 19. Petro, who planned to visit another border department today, Putumayo, bordering Ecuador, had to rest due to «food indisposition», but sent to that region, also hit by the violence of the armed conflict and drug trafficking, to members of his campaign team to meet with his supporters. Geraldine Garcia (c) Agencia EFE