FARC Singer Conrado Formally Seeks Asylum in Venezuela

Protest singer and member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Julian Conrado, has formally requested asylum in Venezuela almost two months after Venezuelan authorities arrested him there with the declared intention of extraditing him to Colombia

By Tamara Pearson – Venezuelanalysis.com

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Colombia’s Guillermo Enrique Torres (aka Julian Conrado, or “the Singer”) (archive).
Colombia’s Guillermo Enrique Torres (aka Julian Conrado, or “the Singer”) (archive).
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Mérida, July 25th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Protest singer and member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Julian Conrado, formally requested asylum in Venezuela almost two months after Venezuelan authorities arrested him there with the declared intention of extraditing him to Colombia

Conrado, known as “the singer”, and whose real name is Guillermo Enrique Torres, was born in 1957, and composed over 100 songs of protest, including “From my people to the guerrilla”, an unofficial anthem of the FARC. Venezuelan authorities detained him following information received from Colombia intelligence on 31 May and said he would be deported to Colombia.

A national group of artists called “Don’t silence the singer”, formed on 11 June this year to demand Conrado’s freedom, released a letter they received from him which formally requests asylum in Venezuela. The letter, dated 20 July, was written inside the cover of a book.

The letter read:

I, Guillermo Enrique Torres, identification card number 9,281,852, from Turbaco, Bolivar, Colombia, [request of Venezuelan] Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, ACNUR [the [United Nations Refugee Agency], and whoever else it may concern: I came [to Venezuela] from Colombia because my life was under threat and I was captured in Venezuela on 31 May. My human rights haven’t been recognised, nor even my right to make a statement in my defence.  I have problems in my prostate gland and other illnesses. I request asylum and refuge in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The letter concludes with two of his finger prints and his signature.

According to the “Don’t silence the singer” group, writing for Tribuna Popular, it is not known if legal proceedings are still underway to transfer Conrado to Colombia, but the group says he is in Boleita, Caracas, in the head office of the Military Intelligence (DIM), and in solitary confinement.

Conrado wrote a letter to his supporters a few days before the above letter, smuggling it out through an anonymous “Bolivarian soldier”, according to “Don’t silence the singer”. In this one he commented more generally about his legal and political situation:

Caracas, [Nelson] Mandela’s birthday [18 July], 2011, brothers and sisters from around the world who give me their solidarity, from my captivity in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, I appreciate your support and the courage you give me to continue.

I know that according to international laws and those of Venezuela that my extradition to Colombia or the U.S. isn’t possible, and that Comandante Chavez knows perfectly well that no state based motivation can be above inherent rights of humans or above revolutionary principals. Comrade Chavez also knows that this decision won’t mean anything but torture and death, and Che [Guevara] said it very clearly, “the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary is to feel deeply any justice committed against anyone anywhere in the world”

Either way, I want you all to know that whatever happens I won’t give up and I won’t betray [anyone], my heart definitely leaves me no other choice: wherever I am and however I am I’ll continue being faithful to the beautiful cause of peace with justice and love. Well... my brother Ali Primera [who was popular Venezuelan radical singer] already said it, “Man doesn’t just live on life”.

I’d like to let you know that I haven’t stopped singing and that I have two new songs, when the issue of my asylum is resolved I’ll make them known.

A hug with all my heart, loving we overcome! Julian Conrado.

The “Don’t silence the singer” group, who is also legally representing Conrado, said it received a notification from the Caracas courts on 21 July that they accepted the group’s request for Habeas corpus, meaning the court must order Conrado’s release if it doesn’t find sufficient evidence for the arrest.

The group called it a “small advance” and the “beginning of a ...stage of justice and legal struggle”.

Photos of the original letters can be seen here and here.