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Sunday, 18 March, 2001, 14:31 GMT
EU visa angers Nobel laureate
Collecting poppies for heroin production
illegal drugs have given Colombia a bad reputation
One of Latin America's foremost writers, the Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is up in arms over the decision by the European Union to impose visa restrictions on Colombians.

The leading Spanish daily El Pais quoted Mr Garcia Marquez as telling Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that he will never return to Spain until the visa requirement is lifted, describing it as an "humiliation".


We will not return as long as we are subjected to the humiliation of having to show a permit

Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others in El Pais
The paper said Mr Garcia Marquez also called it "an absurdity". He and five other well-known Colombian writers - Alvaro Mutis, Fernando Vallejo, Willian Ospina, Dario Jaramillo and Hector Abad - plus painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, have written an open letter to Mr Aznar.

Motherland

"With the dignity we have learnt from Spain, we will not return to her as long as we are subjected to the humiliation of having to show a permit to be able to visit that which we have never regarded as foreign," the letter was quoted as saying.


We feel deeply that we must not be considered outsiders to Spain

"If we dare to complain to this great nation which taught us to consider it, rightly or wrongly, as the Motherland, it is because we feel deeply that we must not be considered outsiders to Spain."

El Pais said they had presented Mr Aznar with a choice of "unity or disunity with the peoples of Latin America".

Justified

However, Colombian Foreign Minister Guillermo Fernandez de Soto said the EU decision was justified: "There is a minority of bad Colombians who give us a bad image abroad and who create this kind of situation, which harms the majority of good Colombians."

According to El Pais, Mr Fernandez de Soto said he believed the rules could be revised in the future if the "the correct behaviour" was forthcoming.
Fernando Botero
Sculptor Fernando Botero was among the signatories

A Colombian daily, El Tiempo, said Spain was the only country which abstained from the EU vote to impose visa requirements on a total of 66 countries, including Cuba, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Visas would probably be needed from around mid-April.

El Tiempo quoted an EU official as saying Colombia had been included because it could not guarantee that "when its nationals go abroad, they don't commit crimes".

Anguish

El Pais said what had caused anguish in Colombia was the fact that after Canada, Spain was the country "chosen by many Colombians fleeing from the violence and the pain of living without hope".


Closing the doors is, for many, curtailing their right to life

Jorge Rojas
One million Colombians were estimated to have emigrated in the past three years. According to the head of a non-government organization dealing with displaced people, Jorge Rojas, "Colombia is being stigmatised. Drugs trafficking has made us international pariahs."

Mr Rojas warned that "closing the doors on the other countries is, for many, curtailing their right to life".

According to El Pais, he complained that "Spain is closing the door on us, although when it suffered its civil war, the world demonstrated solidarity with its immigrants".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

15 Nov 00 | Europe
EU ends Yugoslav visa curbs
09 Jul 99 | Europe
Another huge drugs haul in Spain
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