Merida, May 10th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Following a nine-month battle with the United States over where alleged Venezuelan drug smuggler Walid Makled would be extradited to, Colombia finally extradited Makled finally to Venezuela on Monday. While the Venezuelan government has said his trial will be open to the public, because Makled has made severe accusations against top Venezuelan officials, the Venezuelan opposition has said it wants further measures to guarantee that Makled is heard.
The Venezuelan state will guarantee due process and the right to defence to Walid Makled and he will be taken to court within 24 hours, said Vice-minister for Prevention and Citizen Security, Nestor Reverol, during a press conference yesterday.
Those people implicated in the crimes that Makled will be tried for will also be investigated by the authorities, Reverol said.
Makled is wanted for a range of crimes related to drug smuggling and murder. Two months after Caracas issued the extradition request, the United States justice department issued a similar request, though for lesser crimes. Then, in November last year, Colombian President Manuel Santos promised Venezuela that Makled would be sent here and on 25 March Colombia’s Supreme Court also approved the extradition to the country of Santos’ choosing.
Reverol said the Venezuelan government began investigating Makled in 2005 for diversion of chemical substances and in 2007 the attorney general’s office opened up investigations as well. Since 13 November 2008 Makled was wanted by the Venezuelan courts, when authorities confiscated 400 blocks of cocaine on Makled’s property.
In 2009, Francisco Larrazabal, Makled’s neighbour and a key witness in the case against him, was killed, as was journalist Orel Sambrano who had denounced months before that Makled was implicated in other murders. Because of these cases, the Venezuelan courts put out an arrest warrant for Makled in February 2009 on grounds that he was involved in hired killings and criminal collaboration. In March of that same year Venezuela requested Makled’s capture through the International Police (Interpol). He was detained in August last year in Cucuta, Colombia.
The Venezuelan justice system immediately solicited his extradition, and nine months later, yesterday, Makled arrived in Caracas to face the courts for the crimes of drug smuggling, murder, criminal collaboration, and legitimisation of assets obtained through drug smuggling.
According to government press, Makled’s defence has declared that Makled will plead “not guilty” of all charges.
Venezuelan authorities have stated repeatedly over the last few months that Makled’s trial will be verbal and open to the public, as is established in the Penal Process Code.
However, AVN reported that opposition legislators in Venezuela have requested special protection, the right to speak in parliament, and the creation of an observers’ commission for Makled in order, they claim, for Makled to be able to “speak the truth”.
Makled has said he has “proof” against some high functionaries in the Venezuelan government, which is perhaps the main reason why the U.S. was keen to extradite him there, in order to be able to criticise the Venezuelan government.
Some opposition legislators; Julio Montoya, Ismael Garcia and Miguel Angel Rodriguez, travelled to Makled’s jail in Colombia last month to try to talk to him, but were unable to. However, while in Colombia, Rodriguez said the opposition was conducting its own investigation.
Henrique Salas, ex-governor of Carabobo state and member of the opposition, said he would prefer that “Makled be judged in the United States if that means we can find out what they are hiding and that the guilty people will be punished.”
International mainstream press is already taking advantage of Makled’s arrival in Caracas to publish more anti-Chavez government articles on the issue, with Fox News headlining, “Will Walid Makled, Venezuela’s “Deep Throat,” be Allowed to Talk?”.