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Lugar Urges Colombian President Santos to Extradite Suspected Drug Kingpin Walid Makled to the United States

Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  made the following statement today regarding the extradition of suspected drug kingpin Walid Makled from Colombia:

In August of last year, acting on a U.S. arrest warrant issued by a Federal Court in Manhattan, and with support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Colombian security services arrested Walid Makled Garcia in the town of Cucuta, which sits on the Colombia-Venezuela border.  Makled, a Venezuelan national, was named in 2009 by the U.S. Treasury Department as a drug kingpin and one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the world.

Makled possesses important information which could aid the United States and a host of other countries in their joint war against drug trafficking.  He has stated his intention to cooperate with U.S. authorities should he be extradited to the United States.  He has also fingered high level officials, both civilian and military, in the Venezuelan Government as deeply involved in the narcotics trade. 

It is public knowledge that Venezuela has become an increasingly important country in the operations of narcotics cartels and from it drugs are flowing in worrisome amounts through Central America to Mexico and the U.S. and via West Africa to Europe.  The implication of Venezuelan Government officials in trafficking illegal narcotics has also been confirmed by the Treasury Department.  In 2008, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) placed three top-level Venezuelan Government officials on their kingpin list. 

This is an increasing security threat as drug networks sheltered in Venezuela, with ample support from government officials and military officers, use that country as a base for illegal activities in the hemisphere and across the world.

For this reason, I am concerned that President Santos of Colombia is considering sending Makled back to Venezuela.  I believe that, should Makled be sent back to Venezuela, the government of Venezuela could not guarantee him a free and fair trial. 

Finally, should he be extradited to Venezuela, the Department of Justice and the DEA would be unable to use the information he has already provided to them to legally dismantle some of the most important drug networks in the world today.  For this reason, I ask President Santos to honor the warrant under which Makled was initially arrested and to extradite him to face trial in the United States.

The fight against drugs has been a common one between the U.S. and Colombia for decades.  For the last 11 years under Plan Colombia, the U.S. has supported a variety of joint activities to fight drug trafficking.  Many extraditions of Colombian nationals to the U.S. have resulted in convictions and long jail sentences.  The Makled case is not an exception and, while we respect President Santos’ decision, we would be disappointed if it meant a reversal of years of cooperation.