Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will meet with a U.S. delegation Tuesday to discuss ratification of the bilateral free trade agreement and to patch up disagreements over alleged drug lord Walid Makled’s extradition to Venezuela, reported Caracol Radio.
Santos will welcome to Bogota‘s presidential palace congressmen from the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, the chief tax-writing committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, responsible for initiating passage of the FTA once it is presented by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The six-person delegation, which represents both major U.S. parties, will meet with President Santos, Colombian Ambassador to the U.S. Gabriel Silva and other selected officials, to discuss ratification of the long-awaited agreement, which is due to be submitted before the U.S. Congress on April 22, 2011.
However, a strongly worded letter sent by Republican delegation member Aaron Schock and Republican Michael McCaul to President Santos on April 8, 2011, but only publicized this Monday, indicates possible snags in the passage of the FTA.
In the letter, the two men express their disappointment over the imminent extradition of alleged Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled to his home country, rather than to the U.S, labelling it a significant “mistake.”
The sought-after prisoner is wanted in the U.S. both for a series of narco-trafficking charges, and because of his previous statements about possessing crucial information on drug trafficking links to key Venezuelan government and military officials, which adds to his political value.
The Republican congressmen base their arguments for extradition to the U.S. on the supposed timeline of the extradition requests submitted by Venezuela and the U.S, as well as their belief that Makled would be “silenced” were he to be extradited to Colombia’s neighbour.
Schock and McCaul also cite announcements made by former President Alvaro Uribe that it was the U.S. that first declared interest in Makled, which in Uribe’s words would signify an “explicit” order to extradite him there.
The letter further suggests that the high “media coverage” that the affair has received may “complicate” FTA ratification, before concluding with a call for Santos to “strongly suggest reconsideration” of the extradition decision.
Congressman Schock will be joined in Colombia by three Republicans and two Democrats, including the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp.