Welcome bounty hunters! A visit to WHINSEC
Jan 182005

Colombia and Venezuela are consumed by an escalating dispute over the December 13 abduction of Rodrigo Granda, alias “Ricardo,” a FARC member who clandestinely represented the group internationally. Things began to get worse quickly once the Colombian government was forced to admit last week that, despite claims to the contrary, Granda was indeed picked up in Caracas. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called back his ambassador and froze several commercial deals with Colombia, and the U.S. embassy announced “100 percent” support for Colombia.

Granda reportedly attended the “Second Bolivarian Congress of the People,” a December 8-9 civil-society gathering in Caracas at which Chávez gave an address. Days later, Granda was abducted, probably by off-duty members of the Venezuelan security forces, and taken hundreds of miles away to the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia, where Colombian police announced his arrest and paraded him before reporters’ cameras. As the FARC, leftist websites and eventually the Chávez government presented evidence that Granda had been abducted in downtown Caracas, Colombia’s government spent the next four weeks insisting that he had been arrested in Cúcuta, sticking to its story even as late as last Tuesday. Eventually, on Wednesday the 12th, Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe admitted that Colombia’s government indeed paid a bounty for Granda’s capture in Venezuela.

Since then, the problem has snowballed and spiraled. Today, there is an apparent impasse. Chávez is demanding a bilateral meeting with Uribe – a formula that has reduced tensions during past crises – but is first demanding a public recognition that Colombia acted illegally. Uribe refuses to issue such an apology, wants a summit of Andean leaders instead of a face-to-face meeting, and appears to be trying to shift the debate toward long-rumored allegations that Chávez is harboring the FARC in Venezuela.

What we don’t know

It’s hard to make any definitive statements about this case, because we still don’t know exactly how Granda was captured, who was paid and when. It is clear, though, that Granda was not formally arrested in Venezuela (as FARC member Simón Trinidad was a year ago in Ecuador). The FARC representative – who lived in Venezuela, carried a Venezuelan ID card and even reportedly voted in Venezuelan elections – was abducted. Since legal channels were not used to bring Granda to justice, Chávez is probably right when he says that Venezuelan law was broken.

We still don’t know much about Granda’s captors, other than that they were apparently members of the Venezuelan security forces. Did the Colombian government recruit, bribe or pay them beforehand? (Chávez has alleged that “Colombian government agents were in Venezuela for months bribing and encouraging Venezuelan government agents.”) Did the Colombian government merely offer reward money after the fact, as it does with Colombian citizens who offer intelligence about guerrilla whereabouts? Were U.S. intelligence services involved, as the FARC and other left-wing analysts have charged without proof?

The presidents must meet

Though we don’t know all of the details, it should be obvious that this must be ended through diplomacy, and soon. Before trust deteriorates still further, communication between the two governments is necessary to determine not only what happened, but whether Colombian perceptions of Venezuelan non-cooperation have any basis in fact.

Chávez’s request for a bilateral, face-saving meeting is reasonable, and Uribe should accept it. Chávez’s pre-condition for that meeting – requiring Uribe to make a humiliating admission that Colombian police committed a crime – should be dropped. The two leaders should meet without pre-conditions. Past meetings have shown that the two leaders can work together when their positions are not filtered through the hard-liners on both sides.

All sides are wrong

Colombia

So far, no party to this dispute is without blame. The Colombian government looks bad, of course, because it appears to have enthusiastically condoned a cross-country abduction of an unarmed individual, without the knowledge of the host government. Obviously, the golden rule should apply here: Colombia would be terribly offended, for instance, if Venezuela paid Colombian agents to kidnap a Venezuelan from downtown Bogotá. This scenario is not too far-fetched, since Pedro Carmona, the businessman who spent a few hours as Venezuela’s would-be president during a failed April 2002 coup, now lives in exile in Colombia.

The Colombian government also looks bad because it got caught lying. All governments lie, but this cover-up is especially damaging because the Uribe government had to admit that the FARC were telling the truth. While the government was insisting that Granda was arrested in Cúcuta, the FARC had been claiming since a December 30 communiqué that the abduction had happened in Caracas. In Washington, where Colombian government data are accepted as gospel and FARC claims generally ignored, it is a bit disorienting to see the government caught in a lie and the guerrillas on the side of truth. How far does this credibility problem extend? Is the Granda abduction an isolated case, or must we look more skeptically at other cases in which all we have is the government’s word against the guerrillas’ version of events?

An example is the “Plan Patriota” military offensive in southern Colombia. The government insists that the large-scale operation is going well but offers little information, while the guerrillas offer what appear to be wildly inflated accounts of victories and government casualties (like this one, this one, this one and this one). Are the guerrillas exaggerating, or – as in the Granda case – is there some truth to their claims of high body counts and effective repulsion of government advances?

Venezuela

Hugo Chávez looks bad because his relationship to the FARC is being called uncomfortably into question. The Granda case reveals what is essentially an untenable position for Chávez with regard to Colombian guerrillas in Venezuelan territory. If he helps the Uribe government to root them out and capture them, he risks condemnation from some sectors of the Latin American left whose support he seeks in order to promote his “Bolivarian” vision. If he knowingly tolerates them, though, he risks making an enemy out of a close neighbor and trading partner. (Ideology aside, you can’t expect to be friends with a neighboring government if you’re giving safe haven to those who want to overthrow it.)

While it’s not official Venezuelan government policy, Chávez seems to have settled on a piecemeal position: FARC members in Venezuela on political missions – such as attending conferences or holding informal dialogues – appear to be largely tolerated. It is less likely that Chávez encourages or allows guerrilla military operations on Venezuelan territory.

That doesn’t mean the FARC (or the ELN or the AUC, for that matter) can’t be found on the Venezuelan side of the two countries’ long, remote, largely undeveloped and ungoverned border zone. In a statement issued Sunday, Uribe cites the presence of “seven terrorist leaders and various encampments” that the Venezuelan security forces have allowed to persist in their territory. Is the armed FARC presence evidence that Chávez is providing “safe haven” for the guerrillas? Or is the situation similar to what exists in Ecuadorian, Peruvian or Panamanian border zones?

All of Colombia’s neighbors wish to avoid seeing violence spill beyond the remote frontier areas, but have also wished to avoid giving Colombian armed groups a reason to attack the usually small detachments of soldiers and police stationed near the border. The result is that most of Colombia’s neighbors have been tacitly allowing Colombian armed groups to operate in remote border zones for years. The Venezuelan case is unremarkable. (It is remarkable, though, that the two countries’ border forces coordinate and communicate so rarely, considering the length and unguarded nature of their common border.) No official has denounced that the Chávez government’s policy is to give free rein to FARC military elements; if that were true, Bogotá would have broken relations with Caracas long ago.

Meanwhile, Chávez is also wrong to take such a hard line on the way out of the dispute. It is not clear what he hopes to achieve by cutting off trade ties, recalling the ambassador and demanding that Uribe apologize publicly before agreeing to a meeting. A more skillful statesman would offer Colombia a means to recognize its wrongdoing – thus giving Venezuela a moral victory – without rubbing Uribe’s face in it by forcing him to make a humiliating admission. Some face-saving will be necessary in order to crawl out of this crisis. Otherwise, Colombia and Venezuela will be condemned to a relationship of mutual hostility for quite some time (a situation that, given the closeness of trade ties and the long border they share, neither can afford).

The United States

Meanwhile, the United States is wrong too. Our government could have played a key role in defusing this crisis and encouraging both sides to move on, or we could have concluded – correctly – that we don’t have a dog in this fight. Instead, Ambassador Wood decided to jump in on Colombia’s side, telling reporters that “we support 100 percent the declarations from [Colombia’s] presidential palace.”

If this statement was intended to help smooth things over, we have no idea how. In fact, it might be the beginning of a likely escalation of Bush administration criticism of Chávez, as part of a policy shift documented in a Washington Times piece from last week.

Next steps

Uribe will be discussing the Venezuela issue in a previously scheduled meeting on Wednesday with Brazilian president Lula da Silva, and in a special meeting on Thursday with the government’s Foreign Relations Advisory Commission, a body that includes ex-presidents and former foreign ministers.

Most observers agree that the two presidents should meet as soon as possible. For this to happen, Chávez should back down from his demand that Uribe first admit Colombian wrongdoing. Uribe must back down from his demand that the meeting in fact be a summit of the Andean region’s presidents. We wholly endorse the following series of steps recommended by the Colombian human rights group CODHES for “a political and diplomatic solution”:

  1. President Uribe should offer a public explanation of the operation that led to Granda’s capture.
  2. President Chávez should offer a public explanation of the presence of FARC guerrillas in Venezuela.
  3. Both presidents should meet in private to overcome the impasse and to develop mechanisms for joint action within the framework of the rule of law to confront crimes like narcotrafficking and terrorism. While this meeting occurs, no other government functionaries should make public statements about the issue.
  4. The two presidents should jointly announce agreements for security and police cooperation, reaffirm the economic integration process, reactivate commercial arrangements and signal the renewal of trust in binational relations.
  5. As Venezuelan officials are fired and prosecuted for accepting reward money from the Colombian government, the same should happen to Colombian officials who offered and distributed these payments.

(A note on CIP’s position regarding Hugo Chávez)

The Center for International Policy is encouraged to see that a representative of the left can win at the polls in Latin America despite the opposition of traditional elites and broad sectors of the armed forces. We are pleased by many of the policies Hugo Chávez has adopted, especially his effort to direct oil revenues toward social services for Venezuela’s poor majority. It is a sign of enormous progress for Latin America if a leftist leader can be elected, institute deep reforms, and not suffer the fate of Salvador Allende or Jacobo Arbenz.

That said, our position is not “Chávez, right or wrong.” We reserve the right to criticize what we disagree with. Along with journalists’ rights groups, we are concerned by the recent law allowing the government to shut down media outlets it perceives as threatening “public order.” We are concerned by efforts to pack the Supreme Court with Chávez loyalists. As a possible extension of political control, the Bolivarian circles worry us the same way that Álvaro Uribe’s network of informants worries us. We voice disapproval when the U.S. Southern Command encourages Latin American armies to take on internal roles that have nothing to do with defense, and we note that Chávez has similarly given the military a host of internal roles.

The Bush administration is free to express concern about perceived lapses from democracy and the rule of law, preferably in coordination with regional partners and the OAS. We absolutely oppose any illegal effort at regime change, however, whether violent or nonviolent. Though we have concerns, Chávez remains the elected (and re-confirmed) leader of Venezuela, and we must work with him. It is important that the U.S. government maintain cordial relations, even if his policies run counter to free-market orthodoxy.

11 Responses to “The abduction of Rodrigo Granda”

  1. jcg Says:

    A very wide, fair and realistic analysis of the situation.

    Colombia should have used more mainstream and legal diplomatic means to capture Mr. Granda, even if such a process would be more complicated. Maybe Uribe’s administration believed that it would look “strong” in the face of internal public opinion by doing it this way, but even such an effect’s not going to be long-lasting…

    Likewise, Venezuela’s pulling the plug on all trade and billateral agreements was an overreaction, albeit in an environment of understandable dissatisfaction. It probably was a bit politically motived by the more militant leftwingers within Chavez’s administration and his more radical supporters (Chavez himself, despite his personality and lack of protocol, seems to be much more reasonable personally when dealing with Colombia and even with Uribe himself).

    As for the U.S. government’s “100%” support of Colombia…one could even say that it’s playing right into the hands of leftwingers everywhere, and not doing much to actually help Colombia in practice with this complicated situation.

  2. Wastelandlive Says:

    1) HAS Venezuela ended all trade and billateral relations with Colombia?

    (I heard Chavez say he would. But I’m reading that it hasn’t happened. Any news on that?)

    2) Is the FARC a terrorist organization?
    3) Is Granda a participating member of the FARC? What, exactly, does “the Chancellor,” “Foreign Minister,” or “Finance Minister,” as he is alternately described, actually do?
    4) Or is he just a member of the peaceful left voicing sympathy for the FARC’s cause?
    5) Did Colombia issue a warrant via Interpol for Granda or not? What are the charges?
    6) Is Venezuela a member state in Interpol?
    7) When was Granda granted Venezuelan citizenship? 8) Was that citizenship granted in his name?
    9) If there WAS an interpol warrant out for him, and his Venezuelan passport WAS in his name… how did he pass through Venezuelan immigration without being arrested?
    10) Was he invited to the conference or not? Did the officials attending el congresso not know who he was? Was he in disguise?

    “we still don’t know exactly how Granda was captured… since legal channels were not used to bring Granda to justice, Chávez is probably right when he says that Venezuelan law was broken… before trust deteriorates still further, communication between the two governments is necessary to determine… whether perceptions of Venezuelan non-cooperation have any basis in fact.”

    That’s all accurate. But without intending any offense, it all seems a little naive.

  3. Adam Isacson Says:

    1. Probably not – the business community in border towns is still wondering the same thing. At least big projects, like the gas pipeline, are frozen, though.
    2. The FARC is on the FTO lists of most countries or entities that keep them.
    3. Granda is a longtime member of the FARC. Being the “chancellor” apparently means he spends most of his time outside Colombia, making contacts internationally. He probably hasn’t heard a shot fired in anger in quite some time.
    4. No.
    5. Here’s what El Tiempo said on the 16th: In fact, Interpol had rejected an international arrest warrant against Granda, apparently because a crime like “rebellion” is not acceptable for its “red alerts.”
    6. Yes.
    7. Unclear. It might have been resident status, though it does seem that he voted. Juan Forero’s piece in today’s NY Times says Granda lived in a Venezuelan town outside Caracas for two years.
    8. No idea.
    9. Venezuela insists it knew of no Interpol warrant, and we’re not sure there was one.
    10. Not at all clear whether he was invited or recognized.

    I stand by the statement that you find naive. While Venezuela’s possible protection of FARC members needs to be clarified, it’s pretty apparent that whatever happened between Caracas and Cúcuta was illegal.

  4. Wastelandlive Says:

    Adam,

    Thanks for the answers. I think I wasn’t clear with my last – I’m sorry. I don’t find your commentary naive because I think the capture was “legal.”

    You’ll get no argument from me there.

    It’s that your discussion characterizes this is a missunderstanding between amicable neighbors, best resolved by some clarification and negotiation.

    And it seems to me that the problem is that Mr. Chavez tolerates and supports the FARC operating from Venezuela. Punto.

    As I asked, are the FARC a terrorist group, or not? What is CIP’s postion?

    Has Chavez publicly offered them assylum, or does he deny supporting them?

    I’m trying to resolve some ambiguities about this warrant.

    Bogota claims it exists. The London FT claims that Granda was put on a wanted list a year ago (did they fact check that?).

    You are citing EL Tiempo as saying that the warrant was never issued. But the article simply quotes _Ali Rodrigues_ , as saying the warrant doesn’t exist. Though he could be correct, but I’m not sure I want to take his word for it given all the conflicting and mendacious accounts of this affair being generated in Caracas.

    This is why, BTW, I asked you what this guy really does.

    AI: “Being the “chancellor” apparently means he spends most of his time outside Colombia, making contacts internationally. He probably hasn’t heard a shot fired in anger in quite some time.”

    What does that mean, “contacts internationally?” Does a Chancellor do things like money laundering, fund raising, trafficing, perhaps purchasing arms? If he simply plays a key support role for a terrorist group (are they, sir?) is he innocent?

    He shouldn’t be extradited?

    (That’s a serious question, BTW. As of yet, I haven’t been able to unearth the Colombian warrant, and I don’t know what, exactly, he is charged with.)

    My questions as to whether he was invited or recognized were somewhat rhetorical.

    I’ll take, “I have no idea” at face value. But do you think it reasonable that nobody knew who he was? Really?

    IMHO, chastising Colombia for having broken the rules doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    THAT seems naive. If Uribe could have simply gotten an extradition by asking for it… why didn’t he? Why risk the fallout of a covert operation?

    Is it because Granda is innocent of criminal activity?

    Or is it because Chavez wouldn’t or wasn’t honoring Colombia’s requests?

    Is there a reason we are dancing around the obvious here?

  5. Adam Isacson Says:

    - “It’s that your discussion characterizes this is a missunderstanding between amicable neighbors, best resolved by some clarification and negotiation.”

    I do think that this crisis could be settled by a face-to-face meeting, as previous crises have been defused. Once the headline-happy advisors are out of the picture (note that Uribe has forbidden Colombian officials from speaking about the case in public), the two leaders do seem to have something of a rapport. The longer this situation drags on, though, the less likely it will be that even a face-to-face meeting will achieve much.

    - “As I asked, are the FARC a terrorist group, or not? What is CIP’s postion?”

    Depends what you mean by “terrorist” – and the squishy definition of this term may cause the entire “war on terror” to run off the rails. If by “terrorist” you mean a group that deliberately targets civilians and tries to weaken the people’s confidence in the state’s ability to protect them, then of course, the FARC are clearly terrorists. If by “terrorist” you also mean a group that has no ideology but nihilism and cannot ever be negotiated with – well, the FARC don’t fit that definition.

    The “terrorist” label becomes especially unhelpful when you end up lumping the FARC, ELN and AUC into the same category as Al Qaeda. You don’t combat Colombian guerrillas – which control territory, are organized like an army, and never commit abuses beyond Colombia’s immediate border zones – the same way you would fight Al Qaeda, which controls no territory, is organized in cells, and strikes in cities all over the world. And while the idea of negotiating a peace with Al Qaeda is laughable, it’s certainly a possibility with Colombia’s armed groups.

    I give this long answer instead of a simple “yes” because in this case, a simple “yes” isn’t a helpful response.

    - “And it seems to me that the problem is that Mr. Chavez tolerates and supports the FARC operating from Venezuela. Punto.” “Has Chavez publicly offered them assylum, or does he deny supporting them?”

    If Chávez is truly tolerating and supporting FARC operations, Álvaro Uribe really only has one course of action: cut off all diplomatic relations, go to the OAS and the UN Security Council, and push for an international regime to isolate and sanction Chávez – threatening force if necessary – until he stops supporting the FARC. This is what you do if your neighbor is aiding and abetting people who want to overthrow you!

    The fact that Uribe has taken none of those steps indicates that the intelligence supporting claims of FARC toleration and support just isn’t there.

    That said, I suspect – though I can’t prove this either, and I’m on shaky ground here – that Chávez may be tolerating the presence of unarmed FARC members in Venezuela on political missions. (I’m not certain what “political missions” would be – probably the functions the FARC office in Mexico City played before it was closed in 2002, which presumably didn’t include drug and arms trafficking.) If so, this toleration may owe to misplaced good intentions. During the failed 1998-2002 peace process, Mauricio Vargas has written, “Chávez was dying to serve as a mediator in the Colombian armed conflict. He had old and good relations with the FARC and the ELN, and he believed he could play a decisive role in negotiations.”

    This is highly speculative, of course, but it seems to me to be the most likely explanation why Chávez might allow someone like Rodrigo Granda to remain in Venezuela – if he indeed knew about his presence.

    Meanwhile, it’s worth pointing out that Granda also freely entered and exited Ecuador – according to the Miami Herald, “more than 30 times between 1999 and 2004, using both a legitimate Colombian passport and an Ecuadorean government ID card, both in his own name.” Yet nobody’s accusing Ecuador of harboring anybody.

    - “I’m trying to resolve some ambiguities about this warrant. Bogota claims it exists. The London FT claims that Granda was put on a wanted list a year ago (did they fact check that?).”

    Still no idea. El Colombiano reported on the 18th that Granda’s name was entered into an Interpol database in January 2004, possibly for having ties to FARC and Spain’s ETA. Addition to a database is not the same as a warrant, though. If there was a warrant, Ecuador missed it too.

    - “THAT seems naive. If Uribe could have simply gotten an extradition by asking for it… why didn’t he? Why risk the fallout of a covert operation?”

    They didn’t think they _were_ risking the fallout – they thought they could get away with it by sticking to the “caught in Cúcuta” story.

    Regarding extradition – and I’m ignorant about the two countries’ extradition treaty and how often it’s employed – I too wonder why the Colombians did not make a high-profile extradition request. Even if they believed that Venezuela would be reticent about handing Granda over, they had nothing to lose. If Chávez cooperated, they would have had Granda in custody legally. If Chávez stonewalled, Venezuelan “harboring” of FARC members would have been plain for all to see. Either way, Uribe would have won.

    Instead, Colombia got Granda through illegal means, and Chávez’s relationship to the FARC is still ambiguous. Sounds like a completely botched operation.

  6. Wastelandlive Says:

    Mr. Isacson –

    Thank you for your long answer. I’m enjoying the conversation, though I dissagree with you.

    I don’t know if you share this desire, but I’d love to see this blog attract a little more discussion. So I’m about to take it up a notch – let me know if I’m out of line.

    1) Your long explanation of what terrorism means exploits much of the rhetoric employed by those skeptical of “the war on terror.” It seems quisling to me, because this affair has NOTHING to do with OUR “war on terror,” Al Qaeda, Iraq, the Patriot Act, or any other favorite bogeymen of those opposed to President Bush’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

    This is about terrorism in Colombia, and the FARC.

    So yes, I think a simple answer as to your or CIP’s position on whether the FARC is a terrorist organization would be VERY helpful in this case.

    Why? For one, it would illuminate for me how much regard I should give CIP criticism of the School of the America’s, for example, or the current peace process with the AUC.

    Secondly, it naturally leads me to this question: why do you want to handle Rodrigo Granda – Chancellor for a terrorist organisation – with kid gloves?

    “He probably hasn’t fired a shot in anger in years?” He is only “the FARC’s international representative?”

    Who cares? Is he a criminal, or not? If he is a high ranking minister of the FARC, and he supports their activities by any means beyond the rhetorical, then he is subject to arrest and deportation at Colombia’s request.

    Now – that the Colombians may choose not to demand the arrest of certain members of ANY of the illegal armed groups in Colombia for the purposes of negotiating with them is clearly their prerogative. And I have no doubt that at various junctures they might desire a neighbor to play a third party role.

    But that ought to be up to Colombia, no?

    It seems to me that if a neighbor dissagrees with the Colombian government, and wants to lend the FARC credibility and treat them as a legitimate political party, then said neighbor needs to make that declaration public, and pay the consequences.

    And you – CIP – ought to hold him to that.

    Chavez is walking a line too thin to maintain his footing, IMHO, and I am dissapointed to see you buying even a part of his shell game. To whit:

    AI: “That said, I suspect – though I can’t prove this either, and I’m on shaky ground here – that Chávez may be tolerating the presence of unarmed FARC members in Venezuela on political missions.”

    You’re on shaky ground? Now? What would it take to convince you? The capture of a high ranking FARC minister with a Venezuelan passport attending a Congresso in downtown Caracas?

    AI: “I’m not certain what “political missions” would be – probably the functions the FARC office in Mexico City played before it was closed in 2002, which presumably didn’t include drug and arms trafficking.”

    Not sure, eh? “Presumably?” I’d like to expect more of you. I’ve been around a little, and I find it hard to believe that Colombia wanted him because he was talking Marx and looking for advice on how to negotiate a peace with Bogota.

    AI: “If so, this toleration may owe to misplaced good intentions… He had old and good relations with the FARC and the ELN, and he believed he could play a decisive role in negotiations.”

    Without Colombia’s consent? That doesn’t seem very promising.
    _______________

    Now, moving away from the big picture to some of the details.

    Mr. Isacson, how does this argument work?:

    “Granda also freely entered and exited Ecuador – according to the Miami Herald, “more than 30 times between 1999 and 2004, using both a legitimate Colombian passport and an Ecuadorean government ID card, both in his own name.” Yet nobody’s accusing Ecuador of harboring anybody.”

    The earliest date I’ve seen for the warrant (that we can’t seem to confirm) is SEPT 2004 – inclusion in the list, JAN 2004.

    So while I would normally reject the above argument as a sophisticated version of, “Look Mom, Jerry did it too!” it doesn’t even seem to carry that much weight, because the dates make it largely irrelevent.

    I’d like more explanation on this, as well:

    “They didn’t think they _were_ risking the fallout [from a covert op] – they thought they could get away with it by sticking to the “caught in Cúcuta” story.”

    I’m not sure that anbody tasked with running covert ops imagines that they can be executed without risk.

    Nor do I see Bogota “sticking” to any story: Uribe discurded the Cucuta lie as soon as soon as the op was exposed – within days – and he doesn’t seem too worried about the consequences.

    Either way, I return to the central question:

    If Uribe could have had Granda delivered simply by requesting extradition… why didn’t he?

    You answer:

    AI: “Regarding extradition – and I’m ignorant about the two countries’ extradition treaty and how often it’s employed – I too wonder why the Colombians did not make a high-profile extradition request…”

    (Here’s where the citizenship question comes into play. Venezuela’s current constitution prohibits extradition. So when, by who, and how did Rodrigo Granda get citizenship in Venezuela? The passport IS in his name, BTW.)

    AI: “Even if they believed that Venezuela would be reticent about handing Granda over, they had nothing to lose. If Chávez cooperated, they would have had Granda in custody legally. If Chávez stonewalled, Venezuelan “harboring” of FARC members would have been plain for all to see. Either way, Uribe would have won.”

    You sure about that?

    Bogota’s maintains that they notified Venezuela that he was wanted a year ago, and that its request has been ignored. So long as I’ve been following politics in that region, Chavez has denied these kinds of connections to the FARC. So I’m guessing that a public accusation would have simply resulted in a denial and the rapid dissapearance of Roberto Granda.

    As it is, he’s in jail. And Chavez HAS been exposed as harboring the FARC.

    This is still “ambiguous to you?” Even while he addresses his national assembly with pious words about “sovereignty” while decrying the capture of the FARC’s foreign minister in downtown Caracas at a congresso Bolivareano?

    It’s hard to read the tea leaves at this juncture, but I’m guessing it’s not ambiguous to Zapatero who has canceled his trip to Venezuela, or to Lula who has redirected his efforts from Bogota to Caracas, or Washington which has released a circular to regional governments expressing “concern” over Venezuela’s position.

    “Completely botched operation,” eh?

    Mr. Isacson – next time I’m in Washington, I hope you’re up for a beer.

  7. Adam Isacson Says:

    OK, I see the tone is shifting here. Nice to see some traffic on the blog at least.

    I see an effort here to try and tag us as partial to one of the armed groups in Colombia’s conflict, and I reject that. Our position has been the same for years:

    (1) Colombia’s armed groups, right and left, can and must eventually be negotiated with.

    (2) All three of Colombia’s armed groups are terrorist, because they practice terrorism. I hope that’s clear enough for you. But I stick to my longer answer in the previous posting – and I’d use it in the case of the AUC, too, because of (3).

    (3) As you know very well, the “terrorist” label comes with a lot of legal and political baggage that makes U.S. policy toward these groups too inflexible. Look at the paramilitary example, where the Colombian government has been anxious to get the United States involved, but the AUC’s presence on the FTO list has made nearly all contact impossible. Call them “terrorists” if you must, but don’t put policymakers into a straitjacket. Conflict resolution requires flexibility, without which too many opportunities are missed. (CIP supported both State Department officials’ meeting with the FARC in 1998 and their meeting with an AUC representative in 2003. Such meetings can be important for reducing tensions, but the “terrorist” label makes them very costly.)

    (4) When negotiations are not possible, Colombia has a duty to fight illegal armed groups – all of them – but it must do so within the confines of international human rights and humanitarian law.

    (5) Respect for international law should also guide Colombia’s relationship with its neighbors, and Venezuela’s relationship with Colombia.

    That’s why my posting on the Granda case argues that _both_ sides are wrong. Chávez is wrong not just to have overplayed his hand with this crisis, but to have – as I suspect he has – knowingly allowed unarmed FARC members into Venezuelan territory. I doubt that he has willingly tolerated an _armed_ FARC presence, any more than Ecuador or Panama are willing to have FARC camps in their territory. (If he has, I repeat my contention that it’s hard to imagine the Uribe government wanting to have any relations with Venezuela whatsoever.)

    Why do I say I “suspect” that Chávez knew about Granda’s presence, instead of the certainty you express? Because I work for an organization that values its credibility. We have to footnote. I hear lots of rumors all the time, and I believe many to be true – but if I can’t cite an unbiased source, I don’t put it in print. “Chávez harboring the FARC” still falls into that category. Sorry.

    My whole discussion of the role Granda might have been playing in Venezuela – which you interpreted as apologizing for Chávez’s actions – was the closest I could come to proving a pattern of harboring unarmed FARC members. (I prefaced that discussion with “…the intelligence just isn’t there. That said…”) Without that speculation about Chávez’s motives, a knowing toleration of Granda’s presence seems like an utterly irrational provocation, far more trouble for Chávez than anything he would stand to gain from having Granda present.

    “If Uribe could have had Granda delivered simply by requesting extradition… why didn’t he?”

    Why don’t we know yet whether any earlier request was made for his turnover, if not a formal extradition request? If there was such a request, and it was refused, why hasn’t Colombia made that public? Why are we still uncertain about the date of the Interpol warrant? You’d think Colombia would have put that piece of evidence front and center to bolster its position.

    Ultimately, what has not been proven is whether Colombia requested Granda’s arrest and was rebuffed, or whether it just went ahead with the abduction. If it’s the latter, then Colombia has no case.

    Even if it’s the former, though, CIP can’t support the practice of extra-judicial cross-border abductions because of the precedent it sets. Should this sort of thing become the norm, with states reserving the right to carry out such operations on their neighbors’ soil, the targets will not always be members of terrorist groups.

    “Mr. Isacson – next time I’m in Washington, I hope you’re up for a beer.”

    I’m buying, Mr. (Ms.?) anonymous-person-with-a-Beck-lyric-for-an-email-address.

  8. Wastelandlive Says:

    “Tone shifting?” You bet Mr. Isaacson! This antiseptic academic environment is doing nothing for your ratings!

    I tend to call it like I see it. Am I “trying to tag you as partial to one of the illegal armed groups in Colombia?”

    Not really. I wouldn’t bother reading this blog if CIP were an obvious apologist for the FARC/ELN. (There are plenty, and they all revolt me.) But I do see… what? An unwillingness to call a spade a spade bleeding through here and there.

    I refer to a diffident description of Rodrigo Granda here, followed by an odd reluctance to acknowledge what this whole affair says about the Chavez administration.

    And I’m wondering if it were Mancuso or one of his Leiutenants attending, for example, a Liberal Conservative Party convention in Madrid with a Spanish passport if you’d feel the same way?

    But thank you for clarifying: yes, I agree that the term “terrorist” is being much abused these days. In fact I agree completely with points 1-4.

    “(5) Respect for international law should also guide Colombia’s relationship with its neighbors, and Venezuela’s relationship with Colombia.”

    That’s the part I find rather polyannish.

    If Venezuela won’t honor her obligations as a member of Interpol, then Colombia has the choice of wanking loudly and inneffectively about it, or doing what it did, no?

    Naturally, I aplaud Uribe’s action. I realize you can’t and won’t.

    But it seems like you could concede up front some of the known facts in this case – Granda’s Venezuelan passport WAS in HIS name (we know this because Chavez waved it about, beating the usual nationalist drum). Granda participated in and, according to El Tiempo, at least, he spoke at the congresso. I think the odds that nobody knew who he was – come on AI, let’s be straight – are slim to none.

    I appreciate your strong finish – sincerely. These are great questions:

    AI: “Why don’t we know yet whether any earlier request was made for his turnover, if not a formal extradition request? If there was such a request, and it was refused, why hasn’t Colombia made that public? Why are we still uncertain about the date of the Interpol warrant? You’d think Colombia would have put that piece of evidence front and center to bolster its position.”

    I’m eagerly awaiting the answers, too. It’s a shame Interpol won’t speak up, but I can well imagine why.

    AI: “Ultimately, what has not been proven is whether Colombia requested Granda’s arrest and was rebuffed, or whether it just went ahead with the abduction. If it’s the latter, then Colombia has no case.”

    Ceded. How would a pattern earlier refusals for similar figures affect your judgement?

    The problem for you and I is that the expectation that Colombia can publish that kind of classified correspondence – even to make its case – is unreasonable.

    It’s likely to remain he said, she said at this point, whatever the truth.

    AI: “Even if it’s the former, though, CIP can’t support the practice of extra-judicial cross-border abductions because of the precedent it sets. Should this sort of thing become the norm, with states reserving the right to carry out such operations on their neighbors’ soil, the targets will not always be members of terrorist groups.”

    Oh, come on Mr. Isaacson! I know you can’t condone what Bogota did. But the sky’s not falling.

    If there is a precedent here, then it was set when the Israeli’s grabbed Eichman. It didn’t lead to the slippery slope then. I don’t think it will now..

    AI: “I’m buying, Mr. (Ms.?) anonymous-person-with-a-Beck-lyric-for-an-email-address.”

    I’ll hold you to it. I’ll bet you never expected such a diatribe from the galleries, eh? :)

    A pleasure meeting you Mr. Isaacson. You get the last word, but I’ll be back…

  9. jcg Says:

    Mr. Wastelandlive (sounds familiar…you’ve posted on yahoo msgboards in the past, haven’t you?), if you’re still reading this…two wrongs don’t make a right. The government/police Colombia definitely shouldn’t have used such means to slight Venezuela, especially when Mr. Granda isn’t a big headhoncho and they do not have the necessary legal red tape in order.

    Now, thanks to Uribe’s well-known stubborness, the FARC are probably celebrating the capture of Mr. Granda and its immediate effects. A low level currier, according to most of the information available as of now, has practically become known throught the world.

    All in exchange for a bit of fanfare and a couple of percentage points in polls, basically.

    But Chávez, who as far as is publicly known cannot be accused of anything more than neutrality towards the Colombian conflict per se (some of his associates and sympathizers might go further, but that doesn’t mean that the entire government of Venezuela can be blamed for that), is taking advantage of the situation for big political gaisn and is apparently toying with the idea of further severing economic and political ties with Colombia.

    I’m definitely not just some sort of a “yes-man” for Mr. Isacson and CIP here, but in this case (as in several others), I believe that I have to recognize he’s mostly right, from most points of view involved.

  10. Adam Isacson Says:

    Thanks for the discussion, believe it or not people here in Washington are so civil (to your face at least) that debates like this don’t take place very often. OK, here is my last word(s):

    On the certainty of Chávez’s relationship to the FARC: I direct you to the article in today’s Financial Times in which Steve Johnson of the Heritage Foundation says “Certainly the Granda case paints Venezuela very much in the light of a country that is harbouring terrorists.” Remember that Heritage is, shall we say, a shade or two to the right of CIP – and the most they can say is “paints very much in the light of”? We all still have to use that squishy CYA language because the definitive proof isn’t there.

    – “I’m wondering if it were Mancuso or one of his Leiutenants attending, for example, a Liberal Conservative Party convention in Madrid with a Spanish passport if you’d feel the same way?”

    If Mancuso or whoever was thrown in the trunk of a car, flown to Colombia, and “arrested” upon arrival, with reward money for the captors, I sure hope we’d be protesting.

    – “‘(5) Respect for international law should also guide Colombia’s relationship with its neighbors, and Venezuela’s relationship with Colombia.’ That’s the part I find rather polyannish.”

    Given current political realities (such as a U.S. administration that thinks international law is merely a suggestion), of course it’s polyannaish. Part of the mission of our organization is to keep pushing for it nonetheless. The Polyannas who wrote the UN Charter and other agreements for international dispute resolution did so because rules and procedures are better than kidnappings and escalating international incidents.

    – “If Venezuela won’t honor her obligations as a member of Interpol, then Colombia has the choice of wanking loudly and inneffectively about it, or doing what it did, no?”

    Wanking loudly can be effective. If it’s not, it at least has to be tried before taking a unilateral, illegal action (even the Bush administration sent Powell to the UN before going ahead and invading). If everyone knew who Granda was, and that he was at that conference, Chávez could have been publicly shamed and forced to make clear whose side he is on. Now he is able to dodge the issue with wounded cries of violated sovereignty.

  11. Adam Isacson Says:

    This crisis appears to be winding down. Thanks in part to diplomacy from Peru, Brazil, and Cuba, the two presidents have agreed to meet on Thursday.

    I wish I could also say “thanks to diplomacy from the United States.” But that would be inaccurate.

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