Senor Juan Manuel Santos
President of Colombia
Palacio de Narińo, Bogotá
Dear President and friend,
In November 2010 at the Palacio de Narińo, you said you would keep your word to Hugo Chávez, in the sense of handing over to Venezuelan authorities drug trafficker Walid Makled once the legal procedures of extradition had been finished.
Today, the Supreme Court of Colombia authorized the extradition of the alleged Venezuelan drug trafficker, but left in your hands the delicate decision of whether to handover Mr. Makled to the United States or to Venezuela.
Given the nature and ramifications of the Makled case, no one can escape the scope of the decision you make has to go beyond the scope of the policy of rapprochement with the Venezuela regime.
I don't have to emphasize to you the importance of a trial with full guarantees so that his criminal procedural rights are not violated, but that does not hide the possible connections of Mr. Makled with senior officials of the Venezuelan regime.
In this regard, I must remind you that Mr. Makled has publicly denounced high officials of the Venezuelan armed forces as direct collaborators. These reports also have been submitted to the Office of the City of New York, which has taken depositions in the prison where he remains in detention. For Venezuelans who condemn the penetration of our country by international drug traffickers, the fate of Mr. Makled is of exceptional importance to comprehensively reveal the fabric of the serious crimes for which he is charged.
Mr. President and friend: Today I write with old affection, but with the deepest concern when I see that for political commitment based on your friendship with Venezuela, you could you compromise the full clarification of such serious accusations and allegations, that if true, seriously affect the future of my country. And that right should not be taken from us.
It is not my intention today to assess the policy of Colombia towards the government of my country, but I can unequivocally consider that it is not credible to consider that Colombia and Venezuela are closer since you assumed the Pesidency of Colombia and it is superficial the apparent progress in the "solution" of bilateral issues. In this particular situation, I call attention to the personal interest of Hugo Chavez asking you publicly for the extradition of Makled, claiming to be "your best friend." You, and Colombia in particular, better than anyone, can assess the credibility of this statement.
Mr. President, right at the start of your administration you -- probably the Colombian best aware of the situation, since you have even written in your book "Check on Terror " -- abandoned the complaint
formally presented to the OAS Permanent Council by the then President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe. This decision left hanging without verification the serious accusation of complicity with terrorism put forward by the previous government of Colombia against the regime of Hugo Chávez -- leading one to assume that there were more important interests of another kind (never clarified) -- but this is still an outstanding issue between our countries.
You also know that three senior officers of the Venezuelan armed forces are named by the Government of the United States as active collaborators of the FARC on money laundering, drug trafficking and weapons sales. Of those officers, one occupies the highest office in the Armed Forces and another, the military intelligence system. The government of Colombia, however, has done nothing to take them to justice.
If now, in addition to this already dire situation, your government were to give Mr. Makled to the regime of Hugo Chávez, this would amount to filing away the case of the most prominent criminal Latin American drug trade network -- which presumably includes civilian and military leaders of the Venezuelan regime. A network that Mr. Makled claims, counts on the cooperation of the authorities, without which it would obviously not have been possible to have a guarded warehouse in Puerto Cabello, the country's main port; an airline, Aeropostal Venezolana; and almost a monopoly on the urea produced by a state company -- a key ingredient used for processing cocaine.
None of these details are unknown to you because as the former Minister of Defense, you must have been aware of the "Mafia del Puerto", led by Walid Makled from Puerto Cabello, had links with the main organization of the FARC guerrillas and traded weapons in exchange for cocaine. And I think this aspect is of interest to the Colombian people -- that Hugo Chavez is far from their best friend.
All of this means that the circumstances of the Makled case are very serious and have grave implications, and that the best thing that you could do to make a lasting friendship between Colombia and Venezuela (two nations whose interests and destinies go far beyond politics and the economy) would be to give this suspect transparent justice trial guarantees -- conditions that the Venezuelan justice system is not currently capable of providing.
Mr. President, I understand the responsibility that I take to make this letter public, but the circumstances and what is at stake in our country do not give me another choice. You have in your hands the chance to save Venezuela from the scourge that has done so much damage to Colombia. You now know exactly what I am saying with total sincerity, as a friend of yours and your admirable country. Please act accordingly.
I take this opportunity to send you my regards, deference and cordial best wishes.
Diego ArriaDiego Arria is the Former Governor of Caracas, Minister of Information and Tourism (1977-1978), and the Former Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations.
Click here to read this letter in the original Spanish