miércoles, 6 de abril de 2011

Walid Makled Garcia, drug kingpin

By: Diego Arria - Walid Makled García, drug kingpin, must face American justice: But will Colombia extradite him? - Mackled is responsible for smuggling 10 tons of cocaine into the U.S. and Europe a month. "I'm going to keep my word. We are a serious country." With those words Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos defended his decision to hand over Venezuelan drug baron Walid Makled Garcia to President Hugo Chavez instead of extraditing him to the United States. According to the White House, Makled is the third-most significant drug kingpin in the world, responsible for smuggling 10 tons of cocaine into the U.S. and Europe a month (which represents roughly one tenth of the global cocaine supply). In statements made from the maximum-security prison where he is being held in Colombia, Makled has stated that without the cooperation of high-ranking military and civilians inside the Chavez regime, he would have been unable to become Venezuela's equivalent of notorious Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar. That's almost certainly why, until 2008, Makled owned Venezuela's largest airline, had protected warehouses in Venezuela's largest port and bought enormous quantities of urea, a chemical used to process cocaine, from a state-owned entity. How did he obtain these prizes? Makled has publicly declared that government officials and military officers awarded him concessions in exchange for a piece of the action. In his own words: "Let's be clear. From these businesses, many people were fed. It's that simple, from high up in the government. Of course, they received $1 million a month, and I have proof enough to demonstrate my relationship with the government. Furthermore, the generals recruited me. They even sold to me the drugs that they took from other dealers." As the Colombian government knows, the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control has named a number of these Venezuelan generals as "Tier II Kingpins" for material support of drug trafficking. One of them, Henry Rangel Silva, was promoted to his current position as general in chief of the Unified Command of the Venezuelan Armed Forces by Chavez after being named by Makled as one of his most important collaborators. Another is the head of Venezuela's military intelligence. Yet Santos has decided to return this man to Venezuela, to a regime that stands accused of cooperating with drug cartels, supplying weapons to FARC, the Colombian guerrilla group, and giving cover to the Islamic extremists of Hezbollah. Instead, Makled must be extradited to the United States, where he will receive a fair trial - something that Venezuela's judiciary, crippled by Chavez's crushing power, cannot provide. A public trial in the U.S. can shed light on accusations that, if they are confirmed, will firmly brand Venezuela as a state sponsor of terror, not to mention a clearinghouse for drugs. It could also shed light on the "drug route," where drugs flow freely through clandestine channels to the U.S. and Europe. According to the UN Drug Office, 60% of drugs that eventually end up in Europe pass through Venezuela. Before Santos gave his word to Chavez, he gave it to his own people, whom he has served with dedication in Colombia's efforts to fight the scourge of drug trafficking. The Colombian now has the power to save Venezuela from the drug-running plague. But this is only possible if Makled is extradited to the United States and his crimes are exposed to the light of day.

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