Walid Makled's Extradition Case Highlights Warming Venezuela- Colombia Ties

Article excerpt

Colombian President Santos looks likely to announce the extradition of alleged drug kingpin Walid Makled to Venezuela during a meeting Saturday with Chavez.

Alleged drug kingpin Walid Makled says he has knowledge that Venezuela's highest authorities are facilitating narco-trafficking and that the terrorist organization Hezbollah is active within the South American nation.

Yet to the chagrin of US lawmakers and Venezuelan opposition figures, who say justice will not be served unless Mr. Makled is sent to the United States, Colombia appears poised to announce "the Turk's" extradition to Venezuela during tomorrow's presidential summit between the neighbors. Colombia arrested Makled, a Venezuelan citizen of Syrian descent, in August 2010.

It is a sign to many of the emphasis that Colombian President Juan Manual Santos has placed on restoring ties after years of animosity during the term of his predecessor, former President Alvaro Uribe.

While Makled's fate has topped news headlines leading up to Saturday's presidential summit in the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias, the meeting is perhaps more significant in demonstrating the success of President Santos's concerted efforts to reestablish links with Venezuela after President Hugo Chavez severed bilateral relations last summer with Mr. Uribe, costing Colombian exporters hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trade.

President Chavez is expected to push for an economic agreement that would extend preferential trade terms between the neighbors. Colombia is a major exporter of food, textiles, and industrial parts to Venezuela.

President Santos, in an interview this week with Spanish- language broadcast Univision, said that he will extradite Makled to Venezuela because that's what Colombian law stipulates. "We have an extradition treaty with Venezuela, we do not have an extradition treaty with the United States. This is something people don't realize," he said.

Santos also met Thursday with President Obama in Washington, D.C., saying afterward that the US president understood why Makled had to go to Venezuela.

Washington branded Makled a "significant foreign narcotics trafficker" in May 2009 and he is wanted in New York for allegedly smuggling 10 tons of cocaine a month into the US. He has become the subject of a legal tug-of-war between the United States and Venezuela. …

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