Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that the eight Colombians detained on suspicion of espionage had “secret, or semi-secret codes.” The socialist leader said his nation plans to respond soon to a letter from the Colombian foreign ministry requesting the detained Colombians human rights be respected, with a “laconic but firm” reply.
According to Chavez, there were “computers, many photographs, secret or semi-secret codes, strange activities, contradictions between them [the detainees],” found by Venezuelan authorities.
The president said “the rights [of the detainees] have been respected,” and that they “are detained because there are strong indications of espionage, but they have not yet been sentenced.”
The socialist leader said that his government had not mistreated the millions of Colombians who live in Venezuela, but had given them opportunities and had allowed them to become documented.
“99% of Colombian are decent and honorable,” Chavez said, declaring his “affection and love for the Colombian people.”
Chavez made these comments during a television broadcast from Miraflores, in which he said he prefered not to comment on the matter, in case it was interpreted as interference in the Colombian electoral campaign. The head of state said his foreign ministry would address Colombia’s concerns in a note.
Colombia’s Foreign Ministry Thursday requested “urgent intervention” by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) in the eight Colombians’ case .
The Colombian ministry also sent a letter to Venezuela demanding guarantees that the “fundamental human rights” of the detainees by respected and expressed “deep concern over Venezuela’s systematic process of stigmatization that judges Colombians simply for being [Colombian].”
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe voiced concerns Wednesday that Venezuela’s detention of the Colombians constitutes a human rights violation, because the detainees “are being persecuted for being Colombian.”
The eight Colombian nationals accused of espionage, all members of the same family, were arrested in Venezuela after Canadian-Colombian doctor Luis Carlos Cossio took a photo of a military telecommunications tower.
Cossio’s family claims that their relative is an avid photographer and is not a spy, though he worked for a time as a doctor in the Colombian army.
Colombia and Venezuela have a long history of rocky relations. Venezuela is critical of the impact of Colombia’s internal conflict within its own borders, while Colombia accuses Venezuela of providing FARC guerrillas with a safe haven.
Violence plagues the nations’ common border and diplomatic relations between the neighbor nations are currently frozen.