Walid Makled could be a powerful geopolitical chip for President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.
Santos confirmed this week that he promised President Hugo Chavez that he would ship Makled to Venezuela.
But he qualified that promise: Colombia’s high court decides these matters, and normally it takes 12-18 months to issue a final decision in an extradition case, Santos said.
Chavez is impatient by nature. Chavez wants Makled immediately, basically to silence him.
Makled already has inflicted damage while sitting in his maximum-security cell, where he is allowed to speak with reporters.
Makled could give dozens of interviews over the next 12-18 months. This is an unacceptable situation for Chavez.
Some commentators have suggested that Santos could leverage Makled to obtain for Colombia its long-overdue free trade agreement with the United States.
Makled could be worth billions of dollars in fresh US military support for Colombia in its ongoing war against the FARC and ELN, they add.
But Santos and his senior ministers and advisers aren’t naïve.
They know that the US won’t finally give Colombia its long-promised free trade agreement in exchange for Makled.
Washington has been a no-show on trade with Colombia more times than Santos has fingers on both hands.
US President Barack Obama’s administration has no interest in a trade deal with Colombia or any other Latin American/Caribbean states.
The Democrat-controlled US Senate and Republican-controlled House of representatives also have no real interest in Latin America.
Of course, the Obama administration and (some) Republican leaders continue to insist that they really do want a free trade agreement with Colombia.
But Santos knows this is BS rhetoric, “saludos a la bandera.”
It’s very likely that Makled has been wheeling and dealing with his Colombian jailers since his arrest in Cucuta last August.
Colombian intelligence already has seen some of Makled’s aces and hole cards, certainly enough to determine his value and credibility.
Makled isn’t stupid, so he likely has not handed over everything in his Pandora’s Box of documented Bolivarian narco-wrongdoing.
But US intelligence and counter-drug agencies (CIA, Justice, DEA) also likely have been granted some direct access to Makled, or else have received some of the intelligence provided by Makled to Colombian interrogators.
Also, the US government already had substantial evidence that Makled was (or is) a multi-ton trafficker.
Makled for years exported at least 10 metric tons of cocaine per month to the US, according to one report.
That’s a lot of blow: 120 metric tons per year is over half the total volume of cocaine that supposedly is exported via Venezuela each year.
But Santos certainly is conscious that if he ships Makled to the US, two things will occur:
*The US may prosecute and jail Makled forever, but the US won’t take any other actions that could benefit Colombia; i.e. no free trade agreement, no fresh billions of dollars in aid.
*If Chavez doesn’t get Makled, recently improving Colombia-Venezuela relations will blow up again, and this certainly could inflict economic damage and aggravate insecurity in Colombia.
The Gringos will be pissed off if they don’t get Makled.
But the Santos government doesn’t want renewed tensions with Chavez in Caracas.
Santos wants to collect hundreds of millions of dollars that Venezuela owes to Colombian exporters.
Santos also wants a resumption of Venezuelan gasoline and diesel exports to Colombia’s border states, stronger cross-border energy ties, and renewed Colombian non-oil exports to Venezuela.
Santos also wants more cooperation from Venezuela in terms of keeping FARC and ELN militants out of Venezuelan territory.
Santos also could win some points with some Colombian leftist politicians/voters if he sends Makled to Venezuela instead of the US.
Many Colombians aren’t fond of my generally over-bearing Gringo compatriots and would appreciate/support a show of independence by Santos vs. the Gringos.
But all these possible bennies for Colombia’s economy, and for Santos politically, could be dismissed by Chavez if Makled isn’t sent soon to Venezuela.
Chavez and his gangster generals need Makled now.
The Chavez regime’s narco-capos in uniform need to know the extent of the “evidence” that Makled allegedly has against them in order to manufacture an effective cover-up and identify potentially weak flanks in their midst.
Yes, weak flanks.
Chavez and Walid’s 40 gangster generals aren’t monolithic in terms of their “compadrazgo” with each other.
These 40 gangster generals, and who knows how many more that Makled hasn’t named yet, all operate their own separate rackets.
Each general has his own “testaferros” (i.e. front-men and straw cutouts) through which their ill-gotten profits are channeled.
Certainly there are some loose associations between some of these uniformed mobsters.
After all, “todos comen juntos” so that internal peace can be maintained.
Their universe is in balance when everyone gets their cut.
At least some the top capos like Henry Rangel Silva and “El Pollo” Carvajal likely even “break bread” at the same corrupt table.
But history teaches that gangsters never trust each other anywhere in the world.
Two examples: John Gotti became the head of the New York-based Gambino crime family by whacking Paul Castellano. The now defunct Cali cocaine cartel in 1993 helped Colombia’s government track down and kill the now defunct Medellin cocaine cartel’s leader, Pablo Escobar, so that Cali could gain control of some three-quarters of the Colombian cocaine industry for a very brief time.
Walid’s 40 generals may profess undying friendship, loyalty and “compadrazgo” to each other whenever some of them decant a bottle of scotch together. They also may sing hosannas to the Bolivarian Revolution.
But these guys would kill and/or rat each other out in a nanosecond to preserve their own individual hides. They would turn against Chavez too, if they felt that treason could be their salvation.
But Chavez is the revolution’s brand, so the 40 generals will swear fealty unto death to Chavez – until the brand is irreparably damaged.
But I don’t see anyone flipping before the 2012 presidential elections. There’s still too much corrupt wealth to be accumulated.