Venezuelan Drug Lord Implicates Chavez Regime

By Dirk Hanson 04/04/11
Cocaine Kingpin Walid Makled
Photo via english.eluniversal

Last week, The Fix reported the capture of Guatemala’s premier drug kingpin, Juan Ortiz-Lopez, who was snatched from his home by DEA agents and Columbian Army officials. Now comes news that alleged Venezuelan drug trafficker Walid Makled claims to have “conclusive evidence” of deep involvement in cocaine trafficking by the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez.
Makled, currently being held in Columbia, was scheduled for extradition to the United States. But it now appears that Columbian president Juan Manuel Santos wants to curry favor with Chavez by returning Makled to Venezuela—an ominous development, according to several U.S. lawmakers. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement saying that if Makled is returned to the care of Hugo Chavez, U.S. prosecutors “would be unable to use the information he has already provided to them to legally dismantle some of the most important drug networks in the world today." AP reports that in an interview with Univision from a Bogota prison, “Makled said he paid $5.5 million in 2005 or 2006 to Venezuela's current navy commander for a major warehouse concession at the country's main port of Puerto Cabello--which is also Venezuela's maritime drug smuggling nexus.” Makled said he made monthly payments of $1 million to dozens of Venezuelan military commanders. He claimed that he did not approach the officials: "It was more like they recruited me." The jailed drug thug admitted he had never met Chavez, and was unwilling to speculate on whether the Venezuelan president was directly involved. However, Makled’s lawyer, quoted in the Washington Post, said Makled believes that “if I’m a narco-trafficker, then all the government people are narco-traffickers.” The U.S. has an indictment against Makled for flying cocaine into the country, the Washington Post reports, while the Venezuelan “Wanted” posters list two killings in addiction to trafficking in truckloads of cocaine.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]