To all those who doubted if Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez was involved in drug-trafficking activities, doubt no more; the evidence is in. It came in the form of an exclusive interview the reputed Venezuelan kingpin Walid Makled aired by Spanish language television network Univisión Sunday night.
In the interview aired in the television network’s newsmagazine show “Aquí y Ahora,” Makled said he had “conclusive evidence” that he would only disclose to U.S. prosecutors of the depth of the involvement of many high officials in the Venezuelan government in the drug trade.
Among the things Makled said was that he had evidence to prove that the Chávez government was “100 percent” involved in narcotrafficking activities. He added that:
· He has six videos and other documentary evidence implicating “40 generals” and “ministers, congressmen, governors” of the Chávez regime in Venezuela in drug trafficking.
· Chávez confidantes military Commander-in-Chief Henry Rangel Silva and Intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal were on Makled’s illicit “payroll”.
· The Venezuelan military protects Hezbollah operations in Venezuela.
· Venezuela’s state-run set Makled up in shipping, warehousing, and merchandising contracts that he used for drug trafficking activities.
· Four to five airplanes left daily from Venezuelan airports (including at least once from the presidential runway) bearing cocaine for the Colombian FARC rebel group and the Venezuelan military, bound for Central America, Mexico, and the United States.
The issues raised by Makled in the interview he granted investigative journalist Castro Ocando revealed for the first time how networks produce and distribute cocaine from southern Venezuela, allegedly in close cooperation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Venezuelan armed forces.
The only question still unanswered is whether this information officially will be turned over to American prosecutors, or if Makled, currently jailed in Colombia will be extradited to Venezuela instead, where all the incriminating information that he says he has would be lost.
According to the Associated Press, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, seeking to improve what had been rocky relations with Chávez announced last November that he would extradite Makled to Venezuela. At the time, Santos explained that Chávez had been the first to ask for Makled’s extradition, and the alleged Venezuelan drug king-pin faces the most serious charges – including murder – in Venezuela.
Even before the Univision broadcast, several key U.S. lawmakers had voiced their concern that extraditing Makled to Venezuela would silence him and keep key evidence of the involvement of Chávez and many high officials in his administration from being made public by American prosecutors.
AP said that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on Santos to reconsider his decision. If Makled is not extradited to the United States, American prosecutors “would be unable to use the information he had already provided to them to legally dismantle some of the most important drug networks in the world today.”
According to the AP, Santos had not spoken publically on the issue. However, U.S. Congressman Connie Mack (R-Fl.) told AP that he had spoken to the Colombian president Wednesday and Santos told him “he is legally and politically tied to send Makled to Venezuela.”
The AP said Makled was arrested in August 2010 in Colombia with the help of U.S. drug agents a little more than a year after the White House designated him an international drug kingpin.
In the interview conducted inside Bogota’s Picota prison, Makled made statements, that if proven in court he would reveal the depth of the involvement of Chávez and officials in his regime in the drug trade.