Venezuelan Governments Detains Suspected FARC Musician Julián Conrado

On Tuesday Venezuelan authorities detained another suspected member of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), promising to extradite 57-year old Guillermo Enrique Torres (aka Julián Conrado, or “The Singer”) to neighboring Colombia in the coming days.

By Franklin Rosales - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Colombia’s Guillermo Enrique Torres (aka Julián Conrado, or “The Singer”), captured by Venezuelan authorities on 31 May 2011 (Photo: Archive).
Colombia’s Guillermo Enrique Torres (aka Julián Conrado, or “The Singer”), captured by Venezuelan authorities on 31 May 2011 (Photo: Archive).
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Mérida, June 2nd 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Tuesday Venezuelan authorities detained another suspected member of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), promising to extradite 57-year old Guillermo Enrique Torres (aka Julián Conrado, or “The Singer”) to neighboring Colombia in the coming days. In what has become a repeated occurrence in recent months, Venezuelan and Colombian authorities are said to have worked together to capture the suspected rebel.

Torres, a leftist singer-songwriter from Colombia, was first thought to have been killed during Colombia’s 2008 raid on a FARC encampment in Ecuador. DNA evidence later proved that the victim was not Torres but an Ecuadorian civilian. 

On Wednesday Venezuela’s Ministry for Justice and the Interior confirmed the detention and pending extradition of Guillermo Enrique Torres, stating that “after detaining the citizen in question [Torres], we informed the governmental authorities of Republic of Colombia, and the corresponding paperwork began so as to place him in the judicial custody of that country.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday told reporters that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez had guaranteed him that Torres “will be handed over to us.”

Colombian Minister of Defense Rodrigo Rivera detailed the Colombian-Venezuelan collaboration that led to Torres’ detention.

“Our intelligence agencies had been after him for years, until finally, we were able to secure a credible piece of information that proved to us that he was in Venezuela. We informed the Venezuelan authorities, who responded immediately, and yesterday morning they made the capture,” said Rivera.

Both Santos and Rivera thanked the Venezuelan government for its support in detaining Torres.

In a posting on his presidential website, Santos affirmed that “the collaboration of the Venezuelan government is going to help the (Colombian) Armed Forces be much more effective than they have been" in the fight against Colombia’s armed insurgencies.

Who is Julián Conrado?

According to terra.com.co, Conrado took up arms against the Colombian government as a result of unsuccessful dialogues between his movement, Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union), and the government of Belisario Betancur Cuartas (1982-1986). In 1983, after the entire national leadership of the Patriotic Union was assassinated by Colombian military and paramilitary forces, Conrado is said to have joined the FARC insurgency. He was 29 years old at the time.

“After they began to kill the compañeros [comrades] who had accompanied me in struggles for simple social revendications,” Conrado is quoted as saying, “that’s when I decided that in Colombia it is easier to organize a guerrilla than it is to organize a community action committee.”

Conrado became a recognized cultural figure within the FARC and Colombian society back in 2000, after his performances of a politicized ‘vallenato’ – a type of popular folk music from Colombia Caribbean coast – served as introductions to dialogues between FARC founder Manuel Marulanda Vélez and then Colombian President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002).

Born in 1957, Conrado is said to have composed over 100 songs of protest, including “From my village to the guerrilla,” an unofficial anthem of the FARC insurgency. 

Conrado’s detention and pending extradition has resulted in some within the Venezuelan left to make comparisons with the April 2011 detention and deportation of alternative journalist Joaquín Pérez Becerra – a Colombia-born media activist of the Unión Patriótica granted political asylum in Sweden in 2000.

Both the Venezuelan Communist Party and Aporrea.org have questioned the political wisdom of Venezuela’s ongoing collaboration with Colombian authorities in their decades-long war with the FARC insurgency.

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