President Guillermo Lasso and his Colombian counterpart, Iván Duque, announced that they will reopen the common border on December 1, 2021. This decision was made after a meeting of the leaders in the Carondelet Palace on Sunday, November 21, 2021.
The meeting was attended by the ministers of Government, Defense, Justice, Environment, along with the leadership of the Police and Armed Forces of the two countries.
That was just one of the agreements reached by the leaders after a meeting that included delegations from both countries.
The closure of borders has been in force since March 2020.
The reopening of borders “is not only the result of the fact that both countries have made progress in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic, but we also provide a solution to a security issue,” Lasso said.
The Ecuadorian president added that, with the decision, Ecuadorian or Colombian families will no longer have to pay the extortion of any criminal gang to cross through illegal crossings.
While President Duque said that the reopening “will be in an orderly, structured and focused manner, so that epidemiological controls continue.”
“But this reopening is not only an important message to the border regions, but also to the continuity of communication and connectivity between the two nations,” he added.
This agreement will allow carriers from both countries to market their merchandise both on the Colombian side and on the Ecuadorian side.
Ecuador’s Minister of Transportation, Marcelo Cabrera, said that heavy cargo carriers can circulate, in the Ecuadorian case, to the city of Ipiales and leave their merchandise.
And, in the Colombian case, the carriers will be able to advance to leave the merchandise in the city of Tulcán, in the province of Carchi.
Cabrera said that the agreement to reopen the border was defined with the Minister of Colombia, Ángela María Orozco.
“The agreement is ready. As of December 1, the border is opened so that heavy cargo carriers can advance. This will happen as long as the carriers have the two vaccines against the coronavirus,” said Cabrera.
The other agreements reached by the leaders were:
- Duque said that there is the commitment from his nation to provide support, advice, accompaniment, and integration of its security capacity to face enemies such as drug trafficking and terrorism.
- Colombia will offer assistance in combating transnational crimes and deal with penitentiary and prison matters.
- A binational cabinet will meet next month in Colombia to continue cooperation on border issues.
- There will be a binational innovation office created in Israel to promote entrepreneurship and investment in both countries.
- There will be a working meeting in Galapagos, in the first quarter of 2022, to follow up on the initiative signed at COP26 in Glasgow, between the leaders of Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama, to expand their marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean .
“We are fighting climate change,” Lasso said.
Criminal cooperation for the prison crisis
Duque announced that Colombia will give Ecuador all the cooperation that Ecuador requires to face the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime.
He expressed solidarity with Lasso and announced that Colombia will repatriate 170 prisoners from Ecuador, though this number of detainees is small if the official figures are taken into account.
According to the Colombian Foreign Ministry, 2,127 Colombian citizens who are detained and deprived of liberty in Ecuador could access the transfer process to return to their country.
These people meet “the basic condition of having been convicted by Ecuadorian authorities,” the Colombian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Colombian authorities indicated that it is essential to verify each particular situation to establish whether they meet the requirements for repatriation, that is, compliance with 50% of the sentence or for humanitarian reasons.
Duque said that this process involves the activation of a continuous, regular protocol based on precise foundations so that this repatriation operates in a timely manner.
The director in charge of the prison system, Fausto Cobo, who also participated in this meeting, explained that “the files are now ready. The process has advanced. It is a matter of days if the Foreign Ministry resolves it.”
In addition, he clarified that “not everyone can be repatriated, there are crimes that do not allow it, there are a series of inconveniences that must be separated, it is a diplomatic issue.”
In September 2021, President Lasso announced that Ecuador will deport or extradite close to 3,000 Colombians deprived of liberty.
According to the latest official figures, Ecuador’s prison system has a capacity for 30,000 inmates, but there are more than 39,000.