Judiciary to decide Colombian rebel's fate: Chavez
Caracas: President Hugo Chavez suggested that it will be up to Venezuela's judicial authorities, not his government, to decide if a Colombian rebel commander who has been detained in Venezuela for roughly a year should be extradited to his homeland.
Chavez indicated that Venezuela's Supreme Court or Prosecutor General's Office will eventually make a decision regarding the possible extradition of Guillermo Torres Cueter, better known by the alias "Julian Conrado”.
"It's not up to the executive branch," the Venezuelan leader told state television, referring to Torres Cueter's extradition. "It's up to Venezuela's institutions."
Torres, who was captured last year in southwestern Venezuela, is wanted by Colombian authorities on charges of homicide, kidnapping and rebellion. Colombian prosecutors are seeking his extradition.
The criminal charges stem from Torres' role the decades-long armed conflict pitting Colombia's military against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Latin America's oldest and largest guerrilla army.
Venezuelan Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega said in December that she didn't think Colombia had provided a proper request for Torres' extradition including the relevant evidence. Colombian authorities have since raised their extradition request again.
Venezuela's Communist Party, which is loosely allied with Chavez's government, presented a request for political asylum on Torres' behalf last year.
Chavez said he hopes Torres' case will not spoil diplomatic relations between Caracas and Bogota.
The South American neighbours "should conserve, improve (and) strengthen relations," he said.
Chavez broke off diplomatic ties with Colombia in 2010 amid allegations by former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe that rebel leaders fighting the government were taking refuge in Venezuela.
Chavez restored ties after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took office.
Toning down the antagonistic rhetoric of his predecessor, Santos has forged healthy relations with Chavez and persuaded Venezuelan authorities to capture and extradite several major Colombian drug traffickers and rebels.