The curious case of Walid Makled Garcia, a Syrian-born Venezuelan citizen who is in a Colombian jail for drug trafficking, has many trails. InSight Crime gives you one here: the US indictment.
Makled, who was captured in Cucuta, Colombia, along the Venezuela – Colombia border in August, made news this week when Colombian President Manuel Santos announced he was extraditing the trafficker to Venezuela, not the United States, to face trial.
The move stunned analysts. Colombia has sent more than 1000 alleged criminals to the US to face trial in the last eight years. But Santos has a good relationship with the US. Now he appears focused on improving relations with Venezuela. His goodwill may be rewarded too, with the expected extradition from Venezuela to Colombia of several members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.
For its part, US politicians appeared more interested in condemning the administration of Hugo Chavez as Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack made clear in an interview with the Miami Herald. Mack may be right. Mackled has dealt with high level Chavez officials for years. He is also tied to 5 ton load that traveled on an airplane retrofitted to allow for 128 suitcases of the white powder. The plane took off from Venezuela’s international airport in Maiquetia and was seized in Mexico. When he was asked about it afterwards, then Venezuelan drug czar Luis Correa said the airplane left from Barranquilla, Colombia. Correa was sacked days later.
Colombia paints Mackled as a person who was interested in sending drugs to Europe. They said that, using his connections with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), he sent as much as ten tons per month to Europe. They also tie him the death of Wilber Varela, a leader in the now extinct Norte del Valle Cartel who operated from Venezuela.
The US indictment says Makled also trafficked drugs through Honduras.