By William Tucker
Evidence that Venezuela has ties to terrorism has been plentiful in the open source over the last several years. Some defectors from the Chavez regime have further bolstered these claims, but we haven’t had a really good look at how this support works. Given the arrest late last year of drug kingpin Walid “the Turk” Makled the veil of secrecy surrounding Venezuela’s involvement in terrorism and the drug trade may lifted. Of course this all depends on whether Columbia extradites Makled to the U.S. or sends him back to Venezuela. Unfortunately, it is increasingly looking like the latter.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has stated in the past that he fully intends to extradite Makled to Venezuela as a means of mending ties with Caracas. It may seem strange that Colombia would slight the U.S., a major ally, in this trade, but Venezuela is right next door and Bogota may be looking for leverage. The U.S. has a continuing need to maintain good relations with Colombia and it is unlikely this issue will cause any lasting damage between the two nations.
In meantime we must also consider Makled’s position in this affair. During his time in a Colombian prison, Makled has conducted several interviews during which he made some rather spectacular claims about his cooperation with the Venezuelan government. The kingpin has claimed that he worked directly with the Venezuelan military to move his product to the U.S. and Europe. He also controlled Venezuela’s largest port facility and owned the largest commercial airline in the country. By controlling these assets it is unlikely that the Venezuelan government was ignorant of his business. Regardless, if Makled does indeed end up being extradited back to Venezuela a window into the illicit operations of the Chavez government will be closed.