Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the country will not recognize the result of the “illegitimate” vote that has been called by Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro.
The vote, which will be held on July 30th, will decide on the fate of a new constituent assembly in Venezuela. There have been multiple violent protests held ahead of the vote that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Venezuelans.
Relations between the two neighboring countries, Venezuela and Colombia have often been fractious. In 2010, ties had deteriorated enough to spark off a diplomatic crisis in the region. Colombia accused Venezuela of conspiring with the US. Then Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez had asked the military to begin preparation for war.
However, the crisis de-escalated just days after Santos was sworn in as president. He and Chavez agreed to restore bilateral ties between the nations and begin a new chapter of diplomatic ties.
From 2013, Venezuela’s economy has deteriorated and resulted in shortage of basic goods and food supplies. There have been multiple violent and deadly protests across the country. Many Venezuelan families have sought refuge in Colombia as a result.
On July 30, there will be a vote to institute a powerful law-making body called the constituent assembly in Venezuela. Maduro has said that this body will help solve the economic crisis in the nation but critics have warned that this could lead to a dictatorship. It will comprise of 545 seats and will have the power to re-write the country’s 1999 constitution
Santos too expressed similar concerns during an event at Colombia. He said that this vote lacks “legitimacy.” He said, “The constituent assembly lacks legitimacy and because of that we cannot accept the result. We insist on a peaceful solution for the country's situation.”
There are hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans in Colombia right now. Some have fled due to violence, others have crossed the border to buy groceries and fend off hunger. To regulate the number of Venezuelans entering Colombia, the latter has announced special visa extensions to more than 150,000 Venezuelans who have over-stayed their permits.
Our assessment is that Maduro will not have the mandate to enforce the constituent assembly. The vote will have direct repercussions for Colombia and without the cooperation of its closest neighbor, Maduro will not be able to enforce his agenda.