Colombia will extradite suspected Venezuelan drug trafficker Walid Makled to Venezuela rather than to the U.S.
Makled was arrested in Colombia in August, and both the U.S. and Venezuela requested his extradition. Colombia has close ties with the U.S., and has a tradition of extraditing criminals to stand trial there, but is currently in the midst of a delicate process of restoring relations with neighboring Venezuela.
Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported earlier Tuesday that sources in the Obama administration had warned that to extradite Makled to Venezuela would be a “grave error.”
Officials from the U.S. government say that Makled is a “prime target” and can expose connections in Chavez’s government who have allegedly assisted in the drug trade, reports El Tiempo. The U.S. government requested Makled’s arrest and submitted an extradition request ten days after his arrest.
Venezuela, who sent an extradition request two days after Makled’s arrest, said that the U.S. only wants Makled in order to discredit Chavez.
Santos’ decision on Makled’s extradition will have a significant effect on Colombia’s relations with Venezuela and the U.S. Joel Hirst from the Council on Foreign Relations had described the issue over Makled’s extradition as a “threat to the Chavez-Santos romance.”
Sources from the U.S. government told El Tiempo that extradition laws are complex and Colombia does not have to extradite to the first country who requests it.
Colombia’s foreign minister on Friday said that the Supreme Court was deciding which country Makled should be extradited to, and that the process could take several months.