Chavez Speaks About Julian Conrado: “Let’s not Repeat the Granda Affair”

Following a question from a journalist with RCN Colombia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez commented on the case of Julian Conrado, a protest singer and FARC member  who was apprehended a year ago in Venezuela by Venezuelan  authorities. Colombian authorities want him extradited to Colombia.


Journalist Carmen Rengifo from RCN Colombia made reference to an interview by two journalists, Carpio Olivo and Ernesto J. Navarro, to Luis Britto Garcia regarding the show “Radio Days for Julian Conrado” shown on “Southern Compass”.

Rengifo rebuked President Hugo Chavez who was speaking via telephone midway in a press conference held for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The transcription that follows is the question asked by the Colombian journalist, his opinion, manipulation, and attempts to provoke the President.

“President, I wanted to know, given that on the 31st of May it will be a year since Julian Conrado was captured here in Venezuela and we still don’t know what’s going on with him in terms of whether he will be deported or extradited, what I wanted to know is whether you think that what a member of the State Counsel, Luis Britto, just said in an interview a couple of hours ago, which is that it is not possible to extradite Julian Conrado, and I’m going to quote his exact words now…”We have to avoid him being condemned to death and that sentence being carried out”. He also says that the Venezuelan government must, of course, in terms of the Constitution, avoid him being sent or extradited (to Colombia) and ensure that the laws of the Constitution are abided by… I want to know within the framework of Venezuela-Colombia relations and what with you saying last week that you wanted to see peace in Colombia…but then there are these comments made by Britto, who you named just a little while ago as member of the State Counsel, who says that sending Julian Conrado to Colombia would be to practically hand him a death sentence….and I just wanted to know why? Because that could be interpreted as a contradictory discourse by Colombia’s, president? Thank you very much.”

The head of state didn’t hesitate in answering.

“I would prefer to keep insisting on always preserving, improving and strengthening all type of relations between Colombia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which are as we know sister nations… There always are and were, and unfortunately maybe always will be people or sectors from there and here who strive to ensure that those relations fail, because that’s how to put a stick into the wheel of integration, to the union between these two republics and this people”.

Chavez praised both his and the Colombian presidents’ intention not to derail relations between the two countries.

In terms of Luis Britto Garcia’s comments, the Venezuelan head of state said that he respected Britto’s opinions and that in Venezuela there is “freedom of expression”.

The Colombian journalist presented the Venezuelan intellectual’s opinions (Britto) on the Conrado case as if they were representative of the recently established State Counsel body, of which he is a member.

Addressing this, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution said that it was “better to talk about the Venezuelan state and not just the opinion of one person. That situation to which you refer is in the hands of the Venezuelan state’s institutions. It’s not within the authority of the Executive power, for instance”.

Extradition not proceeding

Recently, the Colombian Defence Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon, urged Venezuelan authorities to hasten Julian Conrado’s deportation “under consideration of the country’s Attorney General”.

In Venezuela the Attorney General has not accused Conrado of any crime. That is why in December 2011 its representative, the Attorney General of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Diaz, declared on Venezuelan state television VTV that his extradition was not legitimate.

“Under no circumstances will Venezuela send a person to a country where there is the death penalty…or where there is an implicit threat of the death penalty”. Although the death penalty is not legal in Colombia, conditions for political prisoners in the neighbouring country have been condemned internationally as a death sentence or being sentenced to torture.

“It’s very important that the laws and decisions of each country are respected and that we never go back to a situation like that of the Granda affair*. One of the most significant events leading to the rupture of diplomatic relations and all other relations between Colombia and Venezuela previously,” said Hugo Chavez.

The Venezuelan President cited another incursion of Colombian security forces on Venezuelan territory. However, the capture and torture of the Colombian singer, Guillermo Enrique Torres Cueter, aka Julian Conrado, took place in Barinas (Venezuela) and was carried out by the Colombian and Venezuelan military.

Respect for Sovereignty

President Chavez took advantage of the RCN-Colombia journalist’s question in order to send a message to the Colombian authorities. He demanded “respect for sovereignty and respect for the decisions of another country. You know, as the whole world does, that the dictator Carmona lives in Bogota”. Reminding the public that the Colombian Embassy gave refuge to Pedro Carmona Estanga after he led the coup d’etat against the government in 2002.

“He sent them to kill me. He’s a murderer and the Colombian government then gave him political asylum afterwards”.

However, it was the Venezuelan president gave the very orders to transfer Carmona to Bogota.

“I didn’t like the decision, but how can I object to a sovereign decision made by the Colombian government and the granting of asylum?”

The then-president who granted asylum to the coup-maker was Andres Pastrana, who incidentally visited the Bolivarian capital hand in hand with the opposition to President Chavez, with that opposition describing the Colombian politician as a “good friend”.

Splitting hairs

There are many groups working against Colombia-Venezuela relations and in command, not just from the social networking site Twitter, is Alvaro Uribe Velez, who has himself declared that he will carry out a campaign against Hugo Chavez even on the frontier with Venezuela.

The media offensive responds to the orders of the Colombian forces in power, related to the paramilitary and the drugs trade, positioned with the US.

“I would say that we don’t split hairs over these issues. Here we have a state position and fraternal relations through which we have managed to restore trust, and we are going to keep restoring this in order to work together and keep uniting” emphasised Hugo Chavez, who said that he will keep flying the flag of peace.

“Hopefully Colombia will manage to put an end to this conflict which has been going on so long and which has caused so much damage to Colombia and even to some of its neighbours”.

Translated by Rachael Boothroyd for Venezuelanalysis.com

* The Granda affair refers to the kidnapping of Colombia guerrilla representative, Rodrigo Granda, by the Colombian military in Venezuelan territory. The kidnapping was one of the factors which led to a suspension of diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela.