U.S. and Venezuela Tussle for Whistleblowing Kingpin

by Carin Zissis for Americas Society / Council of the Americas, April 5th, 2011.0

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is scheduled to host his Venezuelan counterpart in Cartegena on Saturday and, while economic issues may be at the top of their agenda, they’ll also discuss the fate of Walid Makled. Arrested in Colombia in August 2010, the alleged drug kingpin faces charges in the United States and his native Venezuela. Meanwhile, Bogota faces a tug of war when it comes to deciding where to send Makled, also know as “the Turk”. On March 25, Colombia’s Supreme Court cleared the way for his extradition. Santos, who has sought to smooth over rough relations with Caracas, suggested in November that Makled would be sent to Venezuela. But pressure from Washington and the Turk’s pledge to offer U.S. prosecutors evidence of drug corruption among senior Venezuelan may complicate that decision.

The Colombian government will release its final decision by April 15. Between now and then, Santos is not just meeting with Chávez but also traveling to the United States for a UN Security Council meeting and to deliver remarks at Brown University And Makled could also be a subject matter during his U.S. stop. Last week, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) urged Santos to send Makled to New York, where a federal court issued the warrant acted upon at the point of his arres. “Makled possesses important information which could aid the United States and a host of other countries in their joint war against drug trafficking,” said Lugar. The U.S. Treasury Department labeled Makled a kingpin in 2009 for running a billion-dollar drug trafficking empire. Lugar and other U.S. legislators say that the chance to gather this information would be lost if Makled gets sent to Venezuela. (continue reading… )

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