From a jail cell in Caracas to peace talks in Cuba. Such is the twist of fate meeting Guillermo Enrique Torres Cueter, a k a Julián Conrado, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Venezuela’s Supreme Court ordered his immediate release on Thursday after the Colombian government removed its extradition request against him.
Colombia's Office of the High Commissioner for Peace confirmed this information and announced that the guerilla known as El Cantante, or The Singer, would become a member of the FARC negotiation team. FARC representatives and the Colombian government have been meeting in Havana since November 2012.
"The Colombian government would like to announce that it has removed and cancelled its extradition request to the government of Venezuela against Guillermo Enrique Torres Cueter, alias Julián Conrado, who will take part in the FARC-Ep delegation in the peace talks in Havana," a succinct communiqué reported. The text goes on to say that Colombia will continue its investigations of Conrado's crimes just as it has done for other members of this delegation, including Iván Márquez, FARC's second in command and Pablo Catatumbo, head of the Bloque Oriental or Eastern Bloc, the second most important division within the FARC.
The 58-year-old guerrilla was held without bail at the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Agency in Caracas since May 31, 2011 after he was captured on a property in Barinas. He currently faces various charges including personal injury with terrorist intent, drug trafficking, recruitment of minors and kidnapping.
Coronado had been detained since 2011
Venezuela's Supreme Court released a statement saying that Colombia had sent a message through its vice minister of Multilateral Affairs, Carlos Arturo Morales, informing the justices of its decision to "immediately" cancel all petitions for extradition on December 26. Conrado was a close associate of Raúl Reyes, also known as the Chancellor of the FARC. He was killed in 2008 in a Colombian bombing raid on Ecuadorian soil - an incident that led a break in relations between the two countries.
Conrado joined the FARC when he was 29 years old. He became famous for composing "the guerrilla anthem" and for playing the guitar and accordion. He was part of the peace talks in San Vicente del Caguán 10 years ago.
According to a press release from Venezuela his transfer has already been processed.
Conrado is the second addition the FARC has made to its initial negotiation team. Pablo Catatumbo, head of the Western Bloc, joined the peace talks in April 2013 after a discreet operation spirited him out of Colombia.
The announcement about Conrado comes ahead of the relaunch of negotiations. The last 14 months of peace talks yielded partial agreements on two of the six negotiation points on the table.
Translation: Dyane Jean François