FARC Singer Julian Conrado Freed by Venezuelan Supreme Court

The Venezuelan Supreme Court yesterday ordered the “immediate liberation” of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) singer Julian Conrado, following the Colombian government’s withdrawal of its extradition request against him.

By Ewan Robertson

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Guillermo Enrique Torres Cueter, alias Julian Conrado (rebelion.org)
Guillermo Enrique Torres Cueter, alias Julian Conrado (rebelion.org)
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Mérida, 10th January 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan Supreme Court yesterday ordered the “immediate liberation” of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) singer Julian Conrado, following the Colombian government’s withdrawal of its extradition request against him.

The musician and high-ranking FARC official, whose real name is Guillermo Enrique Torres Cueter, has been taken to Havana, Cuba, where he joins the FARC’s negotiating team in the on-going peace talks between the guerrilla organisation and the Colombian government.

Conrado was arrested in the western state of Barinas on 31 May 2011 by Venezuelan authorities in response to an Interpol code red for his capture. He is wanted by the Colombian government for alleged kidnap, homicide and forced recruitment.

The guerrilla member’s arrest provoked a solidarity movement for his release in Venezuela and beyond, with the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) submitting a request for his political asylum in August 2011. Conrado, well known as a composer and singer of Colombian traditional and revolutionary music, said he had fled Colombia in fear of his life.

A question mark had hung over his extradition since December 2011, when Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz recommended that the request not be processed. She said that the reasons Colombian authorities gave for the extradition were different than the crimes they wanted to charge Conrado with, and that the FARC member could not be extradited if his right to life were to be put at risk.

Colombian authorities abandoned their extradition request last 26 December, leading the Supreme Court’s annulment body to order Conrado’s release.

According to a Venezuelan foreign ministry statement yesterday, the decision to allow Conrado to join the peace talks in Havana was the result of an agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government. The communication also states that the Venezuelan government supports both parties “to reach the longed-for peace for the Colombian people, just as the supreme comandante Hugo Chavez desired”.

In a letter by Julian Conrado published on Apporrea.org yesterday, the FARC official wrote of his release that “today is a beautiful fiesta for life”.

“Sisters and brothers of Venezuela and of so many peoples that offered me solidarity, with the soul bursting with joy for my freedom, I give you a fervent embrace of infinite thankfulness,” he said.

The musician continued by declaring, “This songbird of the poor of the earth will continue agitating with its song of struggle for social equality, the only real possibility of peace for humanity”.

A press note from the Colombian government stated that “in Colombia, the investigations that the judiciary is bringing forward against him [Conrado] will continue, as they continue against all members of the [FARC peace negotiating] delegation”.

Meanwhile the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to release Conrado.

“This is an important victory for the solidarity movement that for over two years maintained demonstrations and demands for his liberation,” the party said in its Tribuna Popular newspaper.

“Political, social and street actions will continue for the liberation of all imprisoned revolutionaries in any part of the world,” the PCV declared.