Two Venezuelan opposition activists who were expelled from Colombia last week had been politically active in opposition to the Colombian government, the Interior Ministry said Monday.
Government critic Lorent Enrique Gomez entered Colombia on February 19 of this year on a student visa, which the ministry said expired in May and had not been officially extended. In August, he submitted himself to migration authorities and after paying a fine, was given 10 days to renew his VISA. According to the ministry, at no point did Gomez apply for political asylum in Colombia.
Valles, who was expelled over the weekend, also entered Colombia on a student VISA, and was studying at a military college in Bogota.
Colombian authorities confirmed that both men had been deported for “carrying out activities expressly prohibited under their VISA conditions.”
Both men were expelled under the conditions of article 105 from 2004, which gives authorities the right to expel foreigners “who in the opinion of the immigration authorities carry out activities that threaten national security, public order, public health, social tranquility, public safety,” or when intelligence reports indicate that they pose a risk to national security for the same reasons.
In an official statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Gomez had been involved in political activism and public protests during his time in Colombia, and had made attacks on public figures – including President Juan Manuel Santos – for their lack of response to alleged government atrocities and repression of protest movements in Venezuela.
Gomez was arrested in March for his part in a protest in Bogota, when a group of students hung a banner from a bridge over a busy motorway. Authorities confirmed that an international arrest warrant had been released by the Venezuelan government, a fact which is denied by Gomez´s lawyer and family.
Human rights group Operacion Libertad also reported the arrest of Venezuelan of another activist Alfonso Caro, but Colombian migration services denied any knowledge of the arrest.
Venezuela refuses to release location of activists
According to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, officials from the Caracas-based Venezuelan Intelligence Organization have told concerned families that the men were not being held in custody there.
Under Venezuelan law a prisoner must be presented in a court of law within 48 hours of being arrested. More than 48 hours has passed in the cases of Gomez and Valles, but no official charge has been filed against the men.
Gomez’ lawyer reported that the Venezuelan government had given an ambiguous response as to his client’s whereabouts, refusing to confirm or deny that they were being held in custody.
The families of the two opposition activists are appealed for evidence of their wellbeing after well documented cases of abuse of political prisoners in Venezuela since the anti-government protests began in February and May of this year.
Gomez has been detained and beaten by the police in Venezuela in the past. In one of his Twitter messages he wrote: “The current regime in Venezuela is incapable and should publicly be declared as failed state.”
- Nadie responde por suerte de Venezolanos deportados (El Tiempo)
- Colombia expulso a otro activista venezolano por seguridad nacional (El Tiempo)
- Comunicado del Ministerio de releciones exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Lorent Gómez Saleh y Gabriel Valles serán presentados por violar régimen de presentación (Noticias 24)