August 25, 2011
by Alex Newman
The New American
August 23, 2011
American and Colombian officials suspected that a decision by the Brazilian government granting political asylum to a prominent Marxist terrorist was made under pressure from former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose Workers’ Party (PT) has frequently been accused of receiving millions of dollars from the drug-trafficking terror group known as the FARC. The suspicions surrounding the case were highlighted in an explosive U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006 that was recently released by the whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks. But despite the enormity of the revelations in the document, entitled “Brazil Grants Asylum to FARC Terrorist,” there has been virtually no press coverage of the scandal so far.
The saga described in the cable began when Francisco Antonio Cadena, the so-called “Ambassador to Brazil” for the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was arrested by Brazilian authorities in 2005. He was apparently living there with his family at the time.
Known as “Oliverio Medina” in Brazil, the high-ranking terrorist was taken into custody based on a request from Interpol pursuant to a Colombian warrant. He was wanted for a broad range of crimes including murder for terrorist purposes, extortion, kidnapping, and terrorism.
When Cadena was finally arrested, the FARC’s “International Commission” immediately sprang into action. It issued a statement the next day calling for the release of “Oliverio Medina, who is a member of our International Commission.”
According to the U.S. cable, citing a Colombian embassy official, Cadena also had many high-level friends within the Brazilian government. “[D]uring the many years Cadena spent in Brazil prior to his arrest last year, he had cultivated close ties with President Lula’s Labor Party (PT) and had met with leaders of the PT in a house just outside of Brasilia (called the Red Heart Mansion) owned by a PT member of Congress,” noted the cable, signed by the highest-ranking American official in Brasilia at the time, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Philip Chicola.
The Colombian embassy official cited in the report also “echoed press and other public accounts that PT leaders had met with Cadena in prison,” according to the U.S. embassy document. “While pointing out that claims of FARC donations to PT campaigns had never been proven, he insisted there was ample proof of Cadena’s ties with PT leaders.”
The decision to grant political asylum to the internationally known terrorist was made in total secrecy by the Brazilian National Committee on Refugees in mid-2006. And by approving the request, according to the cable, the government of Brazil was actually violating its own rules — individuals involved in terrorism and drug trafficking are supposed to be extradited, not granted asylum.
“The decision by the Brazilian committee is audacious but not necessarily surprising, as is the near silence surrounding it,” the cable noted. “The granting of asylum to a known terrorist flies in the face of Brazilian claims to oppose international terrorism. Particularly troubling are the allegations of the Presidency subverting the judicial process and pressuring the refugee committee to take a decision contrary to its own guidelines, allegations we find credible.”
According to “unofficial” information provided to the Colombian embassy in Brazil, the decision to grant asylum was made after Cadena promised to sever ties with the FARC. But American and Colombian officials weren’t buying it.
“We, like the Colombians, will be trying to find out what the official rationale for the asylum decision was and how that can be reconciled with the [Government of Brazil]’s supposed opposition to international terrorism,” the cable noted, requesting instructions from Washington about how to proceed. “Embassy believes that high level political pressure resulted in this decision.”
The Brazilian government essentially refused to provide any information about what was going on, according to the cable. The refugee committee told the U.S. embassy that all documents and records related to the asylum decision were confidential. The Colombian government, meanwhile, was quietly informed about the denial of its extradition request — with no explanation — via the Brazilian embassy.
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