Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said in a radio interview Wednesday that Venezuela’s detention of eight Colombians accused of espionage constitutes a human rights violation, because the detainees “are being persecuted for being Colombian.”
“We can not allow that Colombians are persecuted because of their nationality. The presumption of guilt based only on nationality is very serious. This is a clear violation of human rights,” Uribe said.
Uribe also announced that Colombia will send a letter of protest regarding the Colombians’ detention to Venezuelan’s Foreign Ministry.
The Colombian president was reacting to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami’s confirmation that Venezuela has detained eight Colombian nationals on suspicion of espionage.
The accused Colombians, 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.
According to El Aissami, Venezuelan officials found photos of other Venezuelan military telecommunications towers, roads, bridges and highways on Cossio’s camera.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that a search of the detained family’s ice cream shop, located in the Venezuelan state of Barinas turned up computers and satellite phones, as well as Colombian military identifcation. Chavez alleged that business’ premises were a front.
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. Colombia accuses Venezuela of providing FARC guerrillas with a safe haven.
Diplomatic relations between the neighbor nations are currently frozen.