|José Antonio Colina and Germán Varela|
Credit: RNV archive
Caracas, Venezuela, March 25, 2005—The U.S. government urged an appeals court to allow the deportation of two Venezuelans who are suspected of having planted bombs in Venezuela, reports the Miami Herald. Venezuela is requesting that the two suspects be extradited in the case of the bombing of the Spanish and the Colombian consulates two years ago.
An immigration judge in Miami ruled last month that the two suspects, former national guard Lts. José Antonio Colina and Germán Rodolfo Varela would be tortured if they were extradited to Venezuela. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, however, have appealed the case, arguing that another oppositional officer, General Felipe Rodriguez, was arrested last February 5th in the same case and there have been no reports of him being tortured.
The Herald reports that the U.S. government appeal seems at odds with Bush administration policy, but the officials involved in the case are said to have made the appeal solely on the merits of the Venezuelan case and not on the basis of foreign policy considerations.
The immigration judge had rejected the extradition because the suspects would “more likely than not” be tortured upon return to Venezuela. However, the judge also denied the suspects political asylum on the basis that they committed “a serious non-political crime” before coming to the U.S. in December 2003. Both sides have appealed the judge’s ruling.
The Homeland Security appeal of the judge’s decision says, though, “The facts show that Gen. Rodríguez was treated fairly and even allowed access to his lawyer.” “This evidence is relevant and shows that an individual similarly situated as [Colina and Varela] was not harmed or tortured by the Venezuelan government,” according to Homeland Security.
Gen. Felipe Rodriguez has been accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing of the Colombian and Spanish embassies, which occurred two years ago, shortly after Chavez accused the governments of these two countries of trying to destabilize his government. Immediately after the bombing opposition leaders and Venezuela’s national media suspected that Chavez supporters were behind the bombing, but confessions later pointed to Gen. Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is also said to be responsible for the murder of three soldiers and one of their girlfriends. The soldiers had participated in the occupation of a Caracas plaza by opposition officers and soldiers in late 2002.