A letter to Juan M. Santos
over drug criminal Walid Makled
Dear President and friend:
In November 2010, during statements made at Nariño Palace, you gave assurances that you were going to keep your word to Hugo Chávez and hand over the drug trafficker Walid Makled to the Venezuelan authorities once the legal procedures for his extradition had been complied with.
Today, the ruling handed down by Colombia's Supreme Court of Justice authorizing the extradition of the alleged Venezuelan drug trafficker leaves in your hands the delicate decision of handing him over to the United States or to the Venezuelan regime. Given the nature and ramifications of the Makled case, no one can be unaware that the implications of the decision you must take transcend the policy of rapprochement to the Venezuelan regime being implemented by your government.
There is no need for me to point out to you the importance of a trial with all the guarantees so that the defendant's procedural rights are not violated, but equally so that there is no cover-up of possible connections between the defendant and high-level officials in the Venezuelan Government.
In this regard, I must remind you that Mr. Makled has publicly accused high-level officers in the Venezuelan Armed Force of cooperating directly with him. These accusations have also been filed with the Public Prosecutor's Office of New York City, which has taken statements in the prison where Makled is being held. For those Venezuelans who condemn the penetration of international drug trafficking in our country, the fate of Mr. Makled is of the utmost importance for bringing the extremely serious crimes of which he is accused fully to light.
Mr. President and friend, today I am writing to you with affection of long standing but also to convey my deepest concern when I perceive that, owing to a political commitment based on your renowned friendship with Venezuela, you might compromise the full clarification of such serious accusations, which, should they turn out to be founded, will seriously affect the future of my country; and that right should not be denied us.
It is not my intention, today, to judge Colombia's policy towards the government of my country, but I can, without risk of erring, surmise that the rapprochement [the Venezuelan Government] has preached since you assumed the Presidency of Colombia has no credibility and that the apparent progress made in “solving” bilateral issues is merely superficial. Here, I simply draw your attention to the personal interest in the affair taken by Hugo Chávez, who has called on you publicly to hand over Makled, alleging that he is “your best friend.” You and Colombia all, better than anyone, will be able to put the true value on the credibility of that affirmation.
Mr. President, right at the start of your administration, you, surely the Colombian who is best informed of the situation and about which you have even written in your book “ Jaque al Terror ,” abandoned, without “verifying” it, the formal accusation filed by the then President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, before the Permanent Commission of the OAS. That decision left without clarification the previous Colombian administration's grave accusation of complicity with terrorism against the Hugo Chávez regime, which leads one to assume that interests of another kind, and never clarified, prevailed, making this an outstanding issue between our countries.
You are equally aware that three high-level officers of the Venezuelan Armed Force are accused by the US Government as having actively cooperated with the FARC in money laundering and drug and weapons trafficking activities. One of them occupies the highest position in the operation of the Armed Force and another in the system of military intelligence. Yet the Colombian Government has done nothing to take them to trial.
If now, in addition to this already serious situation, your government were to decide to hand over Mr. Makled to the Hugo Chávez regime, this would be tantamount to shelving this case as well, the case of Latin America's most prominent criminal drug trafficking network involving high-level members of both the Venezuelan military and the Venezuelan regime and that, according to Makled, enjoys the cooperation of the authorities, without which it obviously would not have been possible to use the guarded warehouses in Puerto Cabello, the country's main port, and an airline (Aeropostal Venezolana) and to have the practical monopoly of urea (a precursor employed in the processing of cocaine) produced by a state-owned company.
None of these details are unknown to you today, since, as former defense minister, you must have known that the so-called “port mafia” led by Walid Makled from Puerto Cabello had ties with the main cartel of the guerrilla group, the FARC, to whom it handed over weapons in exchange for cocaine. And that, I believe, is a matter of interest to the Colombian people, of whom Hugo Chávez is far from being a best friend.
My purpose in telling you all this is to make you understand that the circumstances surrounding the Makled case are so serious and its implications so grave that the best favor you could do the long-lasting friendship between Colombia and Venezuela – two nations whose interests and destinies far exceed the ephemeral circumstances of politics and the economy – would be to give Makled the chance of a transparent trial, something that the Venezuelan system of justice is not presently in a position to ensure.
Mr. President, I am fully aware of the responsibility I assume in making this letter public, but the circumstances and what is at stake in our country leave me no alternative. You have in your hands the opportunity to save Venezuela from the same scourge that has done so much harm to Colombia. Today, you know perfectly well what I am talking about in all frankness as your friend and a friend of your admirable country. Don't fail to do it.
I take this opportunity to convey to you my unchanging affection, deference, and cordiality,
March 28, 2011
Diego Arria is a Venezuelan politician, diplomat, former Venezuelan Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the United Nations (1991–1994) and President of the Security Council (1992–93). He was Governor of the Federal District of Caracas in the mid-1970s. Petroleumworld not necessarily share these views.
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Petroleumworld News 04/04/2011
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