Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro

Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro has reportedly asked his Colombian counterpart not to extradite to the United States an alleged Cartel of the Suns member, who may hold key information on the clandestine workings of Venezuelan military officials involved in cocaine trafficking. 

According to anonymous sources consulted by el Nuevo Herald, Maduro told Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos he needed a favor while the two heads of state were in Havana, Cuba at the end of June for the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the Colombian government and rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).

But it wasn't until the following week that Maduro allegedly communicated to Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas that he wanted the Colombian government to do "everything possible" to prevent the extradition of Venezuelan Capt. Yazenky Antonio Lamas Rondón to the United States. Colombian authorities arrested Lamas Rondón last month following a request from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The armed forces captain is allegedly an important member of the Cartel of the Suns, a term used to describe the covert networks of Venezuelan military personnel involved in cocaine trafficking. 

"He was tightly connected to some of the highest ranking officers in the Venezuelan armed forces, and operated directly with some of the key players in the cartel," one of the sources told el Nuevo Herald.

Lamas Rondón previously served as the pilot for First Lady Cilia Flores, according to el Nuevo Herald. Two of Flores' nephews were arrested on drug trafficking charges in November 2015 and are now in US custody.

InSight Crime Analysis

If el Nuevo Herald's report is accurate, it would seem to confirm what InSight Crime said following Lamas Rondón's arrest in June: he may possess information highly valuable to US authorities investigating the secretive Cartel of the Suns.

Extradition to the United States could turn Lamas Rondón into yet another informant in US custody providing intelligence on the cartel's leaders and modus operandi. In May of last year, the Wall Street Journal reported US prosecutors were investigating Maduro's number two official, Diosdado Cabello, as well as several other high-ranking officials for their involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering. Information provided by former drug traffickers and defectors from the Venezuelan military has reportedly been key to US investigations. 

SEE ALSO: Cartel of the Suns News and Profile

Adding to the Venezuelan government's concerns is the country's precarious political situation. The opposition is collecting signatures calling for a recall referendum to unseat Maduro from power, whose popularity ratings have fallen sharply amid a severe economic crisis. Maduro's ouster could make corrupt government officials long protected by the Chavista regime much more vulnerable to arrest and prosecution.    

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs.