Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, accompanied by his first lady Cilia Flores, flashes a peace sign as he arrives at government palace, in Quito, Ecuador, Sept. 21, 2015.
Patricio Realpe—AP
September 22, 2015 2:57 AM EDT

Venezuela agreed to gradually reopen border crossings with Colombia on Monday following a crackdown on illegal smuggling.

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reached an agreement to begin normalizing relations by reinstating ambassadors to each other’s capitals, the BBC reports.

On Aug. 19, Maduro launched a major anti-smuggling operation after years of seeing subsidized goods from Venezuela transported illegally across the border and sold at a huge profit in Colombia. Maduro blames migrant gangs for the smuggling, saying they have caused widespread food and gasoline shortages.

About 20,000 Colombians have fled Venezuela since August, walking through river borders with their belongings in hand. Some 1,500 Colombians were forced from their homes and deported for alleged connections with criminal activity in the region.

“Common sense, dialogue and peace between our peoples and our countries have triumphed today,” Maduro said in a news conference after the talks in Ecuador on Monday.

Foreign ministers from the two countries will continue talks on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press.

[BBC]

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