Former President Alvaro Uribe has waded into the debate over where alleged drug lord Walid Makled should be extradited, stating that his imminent extradition to Venezuela should instead be to the U.S., El Espectador reported Thursday.
Incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos announced Wednesday that Makled will be extradited to Venezuela, following a decision by Colombia’s Supreme Court, after both the U.S. and Venezuela had sought his extradition.
Uribe believes that Makled’s extradition was first requested by the U.S. and said that the operation resulting in the suspected narco-trafficker’s capture in August 2010 involved American personnel, indicating that their interest in his arrest precedes that of the Venezuelan government.
“It is an American judge who asked for Mr. Makled [first] and it was an operation of U.S. DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] agents and Colombian police that permitted his capture in Cucuta,” he said.
This contradicts the Colombian government’s position that Venezuela were the first to seek Makled’s extradition, an issue that Santos said was a key factor in determining the extradition destination, alongside the relative gravity of the alleged crimes charged against him.
“In cases like this, when a Venezuelan citizen is required by two countries, prevalence is given to the one who made the request first,” said Santos on Wednesday, according to Caracol Radio.
It is seemingly for this reason that Uribe noted “there is not an implicit order but an explicit [one],” although he maintained that he was “respectful” of the measures taken by Santos regarding Makled’s extradition.
The issue of Makled’s extradition has seen Colombia caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between both governments as it seeks to maintain favorable relations with two countries who oppose one another.
Makled is accused by the DEA of cooperating with the FARC to distribute cocaine to the United States and has admitted himself to having connections with Venezuela’s political and military elite. He has said furthermore that he will only divulge information on these connections to U.S. investigators if he is extradited to the United States.
He is wanted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges and in his home country for similar drug-related crimes, as well as the murder of a journalist and a Colombian narco-trafficker.
The extradition to Venezuela is expected to be approved before April 15.