Caracas Venezuela, August 10, 2006—Venezuelan authorities said Tuesday they had captured the alleged head of an international drug trafficking network. This announcement follows last week’s arrest of a Colombian paramilitary leader wanted on drug charges in the U.S. and Colombia.
Elias Verde Peña, believed to be the leader of a drug ring in Venezuela and Europe, was detained Monday in western Caracas, Venezuela’s Office of the Attorney General said in a statement. Verde is being investigated for multiple homicides and alleged links to 22 Venezuelans who were detained March 21 at a Paris airport. Nearly 45 pounds of cocaine was discovered in the stomachs of those arrested in France.
Following the Paris scandal, the Judicial Police Chief of Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar International Airport and 14 other security officials were dismissed.
Venezuelan authorities last week detained Libardo Parra Gonzalez, a suspected Colombian drug trafficker and paramilitary leader. Gonzalez, who is wanted in Colombia and the United States for alleged crimes including drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, was deported to Colombia to face charges.
In 2005, Venezuela signed multilateral agreements with both France and Colombia to collaborate more effectively on counter-narcotic efforts. On Monday, Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel was in Bogotá where he used the opportunity to highlight the neighboring nations’ growing cooperation in the fight against drugs.
Venezuela is not a major producer or consumer of illegal narcotics, but it remains a key transit point for drugs being smuggled out of Colombia headed for the United States and Europe. According to the Venezuelan government sources , 58 .5 tons of cocaine , 18.3 tons of marijuana , and 869 pounds of heroine were intercepted in 2005.