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Venezuela and Colombia: the price of boldness by Alfredo Toro Hardy

Alfredo Toro Hardy writes: Rodrigo Granda, whose kidnapping in Caracas led to the current bilateral crisis between Venezuela and Colombia, is far from being a relevant figure of the Colombian FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces). This clearly shows when the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, says in its editorial of January 16: “The FARC must be more than happy seeing that the capture of an unknown middle man…has caused such international unrest.”

Original Spanish text at

Similar words were used by the well-known Colombian columnist María Jimena Durán, when she describes Granda as a “third class” guerrilla (El Tiempo, January 17th).

The adjective “terrorist” is in abstract a semantic resource. In juridical and practical terms, being a terrorist materialises at an international level when a name is added to the Interpol capture list. As said in the mentioned editorial of El Tiempo, Granda “did not have an arrest warrant and Interpol rejected one, after his capture, for crimes related to rebellion.”

There was then no evident reason why Venezuelan authorities should have detained or expelled this “unknown middle man,” if there was no direct request from their Colombian counterparts.

In fact, and for the same reasons, Granda moved freely through Ecuador: According to The Miami Herald (January 14): “Documents obtained by The Herald from migratory authorities in Ecuador show that Granda entered that country more than 30 times from 1999 to 2004, using both his legitimate Colombian passport and an Ecuadorian government ID card, both in his own name. ‘We had no notification that anyone was looking for him, not Colombian authorities or Interpol’, said the Chief of Immigration of Ecuador, Colonel Jaime Hurtado”.

Instead of complying with International Law to capture Granda, the Colombian government chose to use, according to El Tiempo, “unorthodox methods, such as use of a bounty program that was designed under national norms.”

In other words, Venezuelan laws were violated when its authorities were bribed to commit a serious crime like kidnapping, ignoring the limits of every State’s sovereignty.

As said by Colombian columnist Gustavo Preto, “In the fight against FARC we have to respect democracy, the Constitution and international law. If we don’t, then the FARC wins.” In his article of January 12 in that same newspaper, the well-known Colombian columnist Daniel Samper Pizano said the following: “The law is the distinction between legitimate force and crime. There are some international procedures and habeas corpus to be followed …when you lack this, legal authority stops being so and it merges with gangs of delinquents …the efficiency achieved when you do not comply with certain requirements, ends up bombing the foundation of state authority and leads many officials and citizens to believe that means are not important if they are justified by one final goal …the first three mistakes have been made: doing something illegal, trying to hide it and slide a subliminal message of ‘an eye for an eye.’ The government cannot keep on moving in quicksand.” Again in his column of January 19, he added: “We cannot say that our government’s behavior was an adequate lesson.”

This tendency to commit excesses is seen both domestically and externally.

In the first case, we just can quote an editorial from the newspaper El Nuevo Siglo from Bogota (January 18): “The increasing demands from President Uribe to his public forces to give results against subversives, especially by capturing insurgent leaders, has led to excesses…massive detentions that end in massive liberations, media frenzy that ends up in scandals and anomalies.”

Also externally this pattern is repeated.

In its edition of January 16, Miami’s El Nuevo Herald shows how during January and August 2004, there were serious frictions between Bogota and Quito as a consequence of undercover and audacious activities carried out by Colombian DAS agents in Ecuador.

Unfortunately, Colombian authorities have replied to Venezuela’s request for an explanation with the classic formula of the best defense is to attack – a strong attack.

It is an additional manifestation of a bold course of action that worries its neighbors.

They have accused Venezuelan government of harboring terrorists and offer to present evidence.

Let them do so. Venezuela has nothing to hide.

Alfredo Toro Hardy

Alfredo Toro Hardy is a Venezuelan scholar and diplomat who has held many ambassadorial posts, including Washington D.C., London, Brazil, Chile etc. Author of several books, he writes regular editorial commentaries in the Spanish-language Venezuelan media and Venezuela.


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