by Tamara Pearson, 03 May 2011.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has responded to criticisms from the international left as well as his own supporters over the deportation of alternative journalist, Joaquin Perez Becerra, from Venezuela to Colombia, where the Colombian government is accusing Becerra of “terrorism” because his news site, Anncol, allegedly “supports” the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Venezuelan authorities arrested Becerra on 23 April at Maiquetia International Airport, outside of Caracas, after a phone call from Colombian President Juan Santos requesting Becerra’s detention and deportation.
On both Saturday, while launching the new housing mission, and on Sunday, during his speech at the large May Day march in Caracas, Chavez responded to criticism of the Becerra deportation, saying he took responsibility for his actions, and that the Becerra Case appeared to be a set up.
“It’s not my responsibility – the main blame goes to this gentleman who came here knowing that he was being looked for by Interpol, with a code red. Each person assumes their own responsibility,” Chavez said. “If we capture [Becerra] I’m bad, and if we don’t, I’m also bad. I fulfilled my responsibility and we captured him.”
Further, in response to the burning of doll versions of some government ministers, which coincided with a Venezuelan tradition around Easter time, Chavez said, “Those compatriots who burnt the doll with Nicolas’ [Maduro, minister for foreign affairs] face, with [Andres Izarra, communications ministers]’s face, made a mistake, they should have burnt a doll with my face, because I’m responsible for the decisions the government makes.
“[Becerra] got off the plane and we captured him, and just like we handed over the [accused terrorist] Chavez Abarca to the Cuban government, we handed [Becerra] over to the Colombian government,” Chavez said. “I had to comply with international agreements Venezuela had signed, that’s all.”
“The Colombian government, the International Police (INTERPOL), and the CIA even knew the seat that the Colombian journalist, Joaquin Perez Becerra, was sitting on as he traveled to Venezuela.”
“Also, someone would have to say who invited [Becerra] here, who set up the trap, why they set it up... they set it up here and they were hunting him...In my modest opinion... they set him up in order to stick the dagger in my chest, they passed me a hot potato.”
Chavez expressed hope that the Colombian government would respect Becerra’s rights, “I’m not saying that [Becerra] is a terrorist, or that he’s guilty of what Colombian government accuses him of.”
“Those who want to criticise me, do so, and those who want to burn me, do so, but I assume my responsibility, and each person should assume theirs with maturity,” he concluded.
In Venezuela, a range of pro-government groups have argued that as a person with political asylum in Sweden the Venezuelan government should have respected Becerra’s political refugee status.