Mérida, April 29th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Over the course of this week, many in the Venezuelan and international left have condemned the Venezuelan government’s detention and deportation of independent media activist Joaquín Pérez Becerra – a Colombian-born media activist granted political asylum by Sweden in 2000.
On Monday, as demonstrators gathered to protest Becerra’s illegal detention at the Caracas headquarters of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), the Venezuelan government was already in the process of deporting Becerra to Colombia without granting him access to legal counsel or representatives of the Swedish embassy in Caracas. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has defended its decision.
The “Becerra Case”
In what is now being widely referred to as the “Becerra Case” by leftist social movements and political parties in Venezuela and abroad, the detention and deportation of Joaquín Pérez Becerra – director of The New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL) and a source of re-published communiqués of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) – has caused unrest among many of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s most staunch supporters.
While some protests against Becerra’s deportation have been held in downtown Caracas this week, a demonstration on Thursday outside of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry involved over 300 people from a diverse array of leftist movements and political parties, according to Venezuela-based independent media center ABPnoticias.
Thursday’s protest brought together representatives from numerous pro-Chávez social movements, including the Coordinadora Simón Bolívar (CSB), the Simón Bolívar National Communal Front (FNCSB), the “Clara Zetkin” Women’s Movement, the Front for the Detained and Disappeared of the Continent, and the Revolutionary Tupamaros Movement. Also in attendance were former Venezuelan Trade Minister Eduardo Samán, and current Venezuelan lawmaker Oscar Figueras Yul Yalbur.
Protestors chanted slogans critical of the government’s decision to deport Becerra, including “a true revolution doesn’t turn in revolutionaries” and “the middle-of-the-road comes right before treason.”
On Tuesday, Pedro Eusse, of the Venezuelan Communist Party’s (PCV) Political Bureau, said that the PCV’s “confidence” in the government of President Hugo Chávez has been “fractured” by the decision to deport Becerra to Colombia and described his deportation as a “concession” to counterrevolutionary forces in the region.
“We believe that this is a concession that the [Venezuelan] government has made to the imperialist forces, to the reactionary and counterrevolutionary forces of the continent. And it is a dangerous concession because it goes against the very values and principles that have been expressed to guide and orient this Bolivarian process,” said Eusse.
Internationally, a number of well known defenders of the Chávez administration and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution joined their voices to the condemnations.
Argentina’s Carlos Aznárez, Chief Editor at web-based Resumen Latinamericano, referred to Monday’s deportation as “the day in which the most elementary principles of international solidarity were thrown into the garbage” by the Chávez administration.
Lack of Legal Clarity
According to Teo Zetterman, spokesperson for the Swedish foreign ministry, Sweden on Tuesday “asked Venezuela to explain why Swedish authorities were not informed when they arrested a Swedish citizen and extradited him to Colombia."
Speaking to the AFP, on Wednesday Zetterman explained that Becerra was granted Swedish citizenship in 2000 and insisted that Sweden should have been informed by the Venezuelan government before sending Becerra to Colombia.
According to Hugo Martínez, one of Becerra’s three attorneys, Article 7 of Venezuela’s Law on Refugees prohibits the deportation of a person to a country they fled for political purposes. Venezuela’s Association of Bolivarian Communicators (ABC) added to Martínez’s arguement, affirming that international law “stipulates that nobody can be returned to a country where his/her life, physical integrity, or freedom is at risk.”
In a press release issued on Friday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro defended the Chávez government’s handling of the Becerra Case and reiterated its overall defense of “just causes.”
“They have sent their note and we are reviewing it,” said Maduro in reference to the Swedish request for clarification in the Becerra Case. “But now it’s up to them to explain why – if this person [Becerra] has an international INTERPOL code out against him – why he was allowed to leave their country? And all the other countries in which this person traveled should explain why they did nothing in response to the INTERPOL code,” he said.
With respect to the legalities of the Becerra Case, Maduro affirmed the Venezuelan government has “acted in a transparent way, in accordance with our own laws and in line with the responsibilities we have as the Venezuelan state.”
Defending the Bolivarian Revolution’s overall foreign policy, Maduro went on to say that “when nobody was willing to repudiate, willing to raise the valiant voice, Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution denounced the United Nations Security Council decision [to authorize armed intervention against Libya.”
Who is Joaquín Pérez Becerra?
During the first half of the 90’s, Joaquín Pérez Becerra represented Colombia’s Patriotic Union (UP) political party on the municipal governing council in municipality Corinto, state of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. After the murder of two UP presidential candidates, eight UP congressmen, 11 UP mayors, 13 UP deputies, 70 UP councilmen, and thousands of UP activists, Becerra fled Colombia and sought political asylum in Sweden, according to Aporrea.
In Sweden, Becerra helped establish the online news source The New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL), the self-proclaimed “voice for the voiceless sectors of Colombia” including numerous armed and unarmed social forces involved in Colombia’s political reality. Over the years, ANNCOL has become a hub for denunciations of human rights violations by the Colombian state and paramilitary organizations.
For his work at ANNCOL, the Colombian government has accused Becerra of being the “FARC’s ambassador in Europe” and “conspiring in and helping finance terrorism.”
According to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Becerra “has been responsible for many years for all of this evil propaganda that the FARC have done to Colombia in Europe."
On arrival at Colombia’s Paloquemao judicial detention center in Bogotá, Becerra denied allegations he was a member of Colombia’s FARC. “I’m nobody’s ambassador. This is an attack on freedom of expression, against independent media,” he said on Monday night.