Caracas, March 30th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) arrested Walter Wendelin, a German national and solidarity activist with the Basque independence movement, when he tried to enter the country at Simon Bolivar International Airport last Sunday, a local NGO, Provea said on Monday.
Wendelin arrived in Venezuela from Mexico where he had participated in the congress of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and argued that dialogue in a “democratic framework” is necessary to overcome the Basque-Spanish conflict.
The activist was questioned yesterday by SEBIN and transferred this morning to “the international transit zone” where “it appeared he would continue his travels,” Provea spokesperson Marino Alvarado said today.
Earlier Alvarado had said that Wendelin “could be deported” to Spain, but a Spanish diplomat in Caracas confirmed that Spain had not requested Wendelin’s extradition.
Media reports have alleged that Wendelin, a member of Askapena, (an international organisation that supports Basque independence), has close ties with the Basque independence group ETA, which is classified as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.
ETA has carried out a 41-year campaign for independence of the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.
Wendelin’s arrest comes shortly after Spanish Judge Eloy Velazco accused the Venezuelan government of helping ETA link up with members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – allegations the Venezuelan government has flatly denied.
Judge Velasco based his claims on supposed evidence found on laptops belonging to the late FARC leader Raul Reyes, who was killed in an illegal Colombian military raid in a guerrilla camp in Ecuador in 2008.
A subsequent Interpol investigation could not guarantee the authenticity of the information on the laptops. It found that hundreds of files had been tampered with while in the hands of Colombian authorities, and was therefore inadmissible in any judicial procedure.
Colombian daily, El Tiempo falsely reported in 2008 that a photo of Wendelin with Reyes had been found on the laptops. Spanish newspaper El Mundo picked up the story on June 7, 2008 and repeated the allegations in an article titled, “ETA Circle Infiltrates the Bolivarian Movement of Hugo Chavez,” [El entorno de ETA se infiltra en el movimiento bolivariano de Hugo Chávez] and two years later the Spanish daily El Pais repeated the allegations.
However, the photo in question was taken in Quito, Ecuador at the Second Bolivarian Congress of the Peoples held between February 24-27, 2008, and shows Wendelin with a Chilean citizen, Carlos Casanueva Troncoso, not with Reyes.
Wendelin visited Venezuela previously in December 2009, where he participated in a forum titled, “Imperialist threats and popular resistance, towards the construction of an anti-imperialist front,” according to the Ministry of Communication and Information.
The Simón Bolívar Coordinator, a grassroots community organisation in Caracas that supports the Basque independence movement, said in a statement Tuesday that Wendelin had travelled to Venezuela to present to local groups a recent document in which the Basque nationalist left had committed to defend their political objectives through “exclusively political and democratic means.”
Hundreds of Basque independence activists have sought refuge in Venezuela since 1939, and in the 1980s several ETA members were granted political asylum as a result of an agreement between Caracas and Madrid.
Thousands of Basques have been tortured by Spanish authorities over the last three decades and hundreds have been arbitrarily arrested and remain in custody on suspicion of being ETA militants.
Since a 15-month ceasefire with ETA ended in June 2007, the Jose Zapatero government in Madrid has cracked down on the Basque independence movement, arresting scores of activists and initiating extradition proceedings against Basque exiles around the world.
In 2002 the Venezuelan government deported ETA members Sebastian Etxaniz and Juan Victor Galarza to Spain, but last year denied Spain’s request to extradite alleged former ETA member, Iñaki Etxeberria.