A Colombian woman alleges that she, her daughter and three others were detained and mistreated by authorities in Venezuela, after a reported tip-off that they were paramilitaries. The Colombian’s daughter and two others remain in custody.
Alba Lucia Alzate told El Tiempo Tuesday that she had crossed the Venezuelan border on July 9 along with her daughter and three other Colombians. Alzate claims that later that day, at 1PM, they were apprehended by Venezuelan police in the border town of Ureña in the Venezuelan state of Tachira.
According to Alzante, Venezuelan police officers stopped the group of Colombians at gunpoint. “They told us to raise our hands. The only things we had on us were our cell phones. They ordered us to put those on the floor,” Alzante said.
Afterwards, Alzate alleges, the travelers were taken to the police station where they were told that the officers were checking their criminal records. “They explained to us that if we didn’t have one, we would be released,” Alzante said. “But it was a lie.”
The Quindio native claims that the police put hoods on all the detainees, apart from her daughter, and took photos. According to El Tiempo, these photos later appeared in the Venezuelan press.
Alzante was released Friday but she remains concerned for her daughter who is still detained in Venezuela. The Colombian says she found out Thursday that her daughter had been transferred to San Cristobal, in the Venezuelan state of Tachira. “My child is in a juvenile court, but that’s all I know,” Alzate said.
The two other Colombians who remain in Venezuelan custody are Diego Fernando Cardozo Vanegas and Jhon Keny Cabezas Torres. Cabezas’s wife Lucelly Parra told El Tiempo that her brother-in-law Alexander Cabezas had travelled to Venezuela to see what he could help the detainees.
“He told us that every time he asked after them in the police station, he was told that they were dead,” Parra said.
This is the latest in a series of arrests of Colombian nationals by Venezuelan authorities. In April 2010, eight Colombians were detained by Venezuela on suspicion of espionage. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has repeatedly accused Colombia of seeking to destabilize his government through paramilitary activities on Venezuelan soil.