Chávez Defends Colombia Policy, Insists on “Respect” for Venezuelan Sovereignty

Yesterday Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reiterated his assertions that all outlawed organizations based in neighboring Colombia “must respect” Venezuela’s territorial sovereignty. 

By Franklin Rosales - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez walking with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (archive).
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez walking with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (archive).

Mérida, June 3rd, 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Yesterday Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reiterated his assertions that all outlawed organizations based in neighboring Colombia “must respect” Venezuela’s territorial sovereignty.

Referring to right-wing paramilitary groups, drug trafficking cartels, and leftist guerrilla organizations involved in the decades-long conflict in Colombia, Chávez said that his government “can not permit the presence of any illegal armed groups in Venezuela.” Chávez’s comments came just days after Venezuelan authorities detained another suspected member of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), provoking new criticisms from the Venezuelan and international left.

Speaking to reporters outside Miraflores Presidential Palace yesterday, Chávez defended his government’s policy against what he called Colombia’s “irregular forces” that operate illegally in Venezuela.

Chávez told the press that his government has repeatedly “asserted to the Colombian guerrilla forces, to the paramilitary forces, to the drug traffickers wherever they might be from – in this case Colombia, because well, there they have this phenomena that has extended into Venezuela – we have told all of them that Venezuela must be respected.”

In the specific case of Colombia’s Guillermo Enrique Torres (aka Julián Conrado, or “The Singer”), captured on Tuesday in the western Venezuelan state of Barinas, Chávez argued that the Torres detention and pending extradition was evidence that Venezuela is “meeting its international obligations.”

“Basically, he [Torres] was detected,” explained Chávez. “The information arrived. At first we didn’t even know who he was, but we receive information… and we have to process it. We look to INTERPOL, if the person appears on INTERPOL’s lists, sought after since who knows what year, with a Code Red, well then; we order his capture and his extradition to the country seeking him, in this case, Colombia.” 

Chávez went on to affirm that Venezuela is “fulfilling its obligations, and will continue to do so.”

“I am certain that Santos would not allow coup plotters who are exiled in Colombia, [Pedro] Carmona among them, to organize attacks against Venezuela,” Chávez said.

Pedro Carmona, former president of Venezuela’s main chamber of commerce, Fedecámaras, illegally held the Venezuelan presidency during the short-lived (47 hours) coup against Chávez in April, 2002. Venezuelan requested Carmona’s extradition from Colombia back in 2007 but he remains free in Colombia to this day. 

Asked what he thought about criticisms coming from the Venezuelan and international left – critiques of the Torres detention as well as the recent arrest and extradition of Colombian-born independent media activist Joaquín Pérez Becerra – Chávez stated that “everyone has their reasons, and they [who criticize] should be able to do so openly and freely.”

In response to the Torres detention, 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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