Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s biggest problem was named Walid Makled. The Colombian government just confirmed, however, in an announcement from its Minister of the Interior and Justice, Hermán Vargas, that Venezuelan drug trafficker Walid Makled — wanted by both Washington and Caracas — will be extradited to Venezuela, not to Washington as the US had hoped.
This is a big victory of Venezuela over the US. Colombia, which had been the main ally of the US in Latin America, had good reason to feel abandoned by the Obama Administration and preferred to pursue its own interest with Venezuela. The Obama administration has still not ratified the free-trade agreements with Colombia; and President Obama avoided visiting Colombia on his recent, first Latin American tour.
Makled made it clear that he wanted to be extradited to the U.S., and has said he would give answers to most questions only to the U.S. prosecutor. Given the policy of rapprochement between the two Latin American countries, however, it seems that the Colombian government preferred to extradite Makled to Venezuela, where the wealth of information that Makled could have provided on drug trafficking, on Chavez’s links with terrorism and on Hezbollah’s operations in South America will be lost for good. The Venezuelan regime can now easily “silence” the drug kingpin, who fears for his life.
Makled, alias “El Arabe,” a Syrian-born Venezuelan citizen, labelled by the U.S. government one of the world’s top three drug kingpins, was arrested in Colombia last August in a joint operation of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Colombian police. Ever since, he has become the object of battle between the United States and Venezuela: both countries were asking for Makled’s extradition to their soil.
Makled, whom the US Drug Enforcement Agency has accused of shipping up to 10 tons of cocaine a month from Venezuela to the United States, acknowledged bribing and collaborating with highest officials of Venezuela’s government — including the general-in-chief, the head of military intelligence, the commander of the Navy and some 40 generals.
In the many interviews Makled has given from his prison in Colombia, he says he has videotapes and other evidence documenting his transactions with Venezuelan generals and senior government officials, provincial governors, members of Venezuelan Congress, cabinet secretaries. He describes making payments of about $1 million a month to Venezuelan high-ranking civilian and military officials. “If I am a drug trafficker, everyone in the Chavez government is drug trafficker,” Makled has said.
Further, Makled claims to have information on Chavez’s help to Hezbollah and other Middle Eastern terrorist groups operating in the Venezuelan soil. Makled stated in an interview that Hezbollah is “absolutely” active in Venezuela. He also has information on the flights between Venezuela and Teheran — a serious source of concern for the US.
As the Washington Post puts it: “The Obama administration is about to lose an extraordinary opportunity to prosecute one of the world’s biggest drug traffickers. It will fail to break up a network that annually smuggles hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States. And it will miss delivering a devastating blow to the most dedicated U.S. adversary in Latin America, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.”
Obama pisses off allies. Why would Columbia cooperate with him?