Sweden should explain why a Swedish citizen accused of being a FARC rebel agent was allowed to leave the European country even though Colombia had an order out for his arrest, Venezuela’s foreign minister said Friday.
The comment came after Sweden asked Venezuela to explain why it wasn’t informed when Joaquin Perez was arrested in Caracas last Saturday and deported to Colombia two days later. Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said Venezuela sidestepped diplomatic custom by failing to notify the Swedish government.
Venezuela is considering Sweden’s request, but “it’s up to them to respond why they allowed this person to leave their country,” Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro told reporters. He noted Perez was wanted internationally under an order issued through Interpol.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called Perez the most important operative in Europe of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Perez ran a Swedish-based website that serves as the leftist rebels’ news agency and regularly carries FARC statements. However, Perez has denied belonging to the guerrilla group.
Perez, 55, was captured when he arrived in Caracas on an airline flight from Frankfurt, Germany. Colombian and Swedish officials say he has been a Swedish citizen since 2000, when he renounced his Colombian citizenship.
Perez’s deportation was the latest sign of a thaw in relations between Colombia and Venezuela. Santos said he personally called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to inform him of Perez’s pending arrival and request his arrest.
Venezuela’s decision to comply and deport Perez has been criticized by some of Chavez’s allies, including members of the Communist Party. A small group held a protest over the issue outside the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, accusing Chavez of betraying his leftist ideals and siding with the right for political convenience.
Responding to such criticisms, Maduro said: “We comply with international law, and no one will be able to come and blackmail us — neither the ultra-left nor the ultra-right.”