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Dominican president offers to mediate Colombian-Venezuela ‘spies’ spat

posted by Cameron Sumpter

leonel fernandez

Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez Thursday offered to mediate in the case of eight Colombians detained in Venezuela on charges of espionage, after he obtains “adequate information” on the matter.

The president told reporters at the World Economic Forumin (WEF) in Cartagena that he would visit Venezuela on April 19 for celebrations of the anniversary of the country’s independence, Diario Libre reported.

Fernandez stressed that he must first obtain “adequate information” about the Colombians accused of spying before analyzing what “could be done in relation to these citizens.”

“We are always available to talk with the Venezuelan authorities regarding this or any other item that means improving relations between Colombia and Venezuela,” said President Fernandez.

Colombia’s foreign ministry sent a letter to the Venezuelan authorities Wednesday, demanding guarantees that the “fundamental human rights” of the detainees will be respected and expressing “deep concern over Venezuela’s systematic process of stigmatization that judges Colombians simply for being [Colombian].”

Venezuelan Obmudsman Gabriela Ramirez rejected the concerns of “stigmatization” as evidence of part of “a campaign by Colombia to discredit Venezuelan institutions.”

The eight Colombian nationals accused of espionage are all members of one family.

They were arrested in Venezuela after Canadian-Colombian doctor Luis Carlos Cossio took a photo of a military telecommunications tower.

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 neighboring nations are currently frozen.

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