Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte knew that his hugely profitable run as the Bolivarian regime’s chief narco-judge was nearing a possibly fatal end the moment he learned that Cliver Alcala planted several hundred kilograms of very diluted cocaine on a property leased by Walid Makled.
Until the cocaine was “found” in a staged counterdrug raid on the property, Makled and Aponte were good friends and associates in Makled’s drug trafficking business.
Makled claims that he was writing Aponte checks for Bs300 million per month. Makled claims that he also made huge monthly payments to former Carabobo Governor Acosta Carles, and a couple dozen more generals and senior regime officials.
Aponte also was the president of the Supreme Court’s Criminal (Penal) bench, where – by his own taped admission – he fixed and rigged cases in accordance with instructions that he received from Chavez and other top government officials.
Aponte was squarely in the middle of a lot of criminal and unconstitutional activities in which President Chavez and many of his top military and civilian associates were involved directly. He was also too close personally to Makled.
After the cocaine was found and Makled fled the country, Aponte started thinking hard about Plan B – bailing out of the narco-revolution alive and free – with his family, of course.
Aponte had money, thanks to Makled, among others. He had a valid passport. But Aponte did not have any political capital, no leverage, no actionable intelligence that he could offer in exchange for a deal.
Aponte quietly started to accumulate that capital, copying documents, downloading files, and gradually building a large data base of specific unconstitutional and criminal acts committed by Chavez and his top associates.
About one year ago, Aponte also traveled to meet with DEA and FBI officials in a nearby country. The meeting was arranged by a Venezuelan citizen, and ‘nuff said for security reasons.
Aponte showed the FBI and DEA a small taste of the intelligence he could offer, in exchange for a good deal.
The gringos were impressed, but apparently they did not immediately see the larger picture, did not fully understand the implications of what Aponte was saying.
US law enforcement agencies live and operate in separate worlds, with their own cultures, missions and priorities. The DEA pursues drug traffickers, the FBI looks for terrorists, the Treasury Department goes after money launderers. Besides, the DEA and FBI officials who met with Aponte were not senior enough to offer any deals.
A deal like the one Aponte was seeking has to be kicked upstairs in DC and shopped at the right agencies – Justice, State, NSC, even possibly the White House. Aponte was seeking freedom, safety and even immunity from prosecution in exchange for a large trove of documents showing that the Chavez regime is an ongoing international criminal enterprise. Thank you, Judge Aponte. We’ll be in touch with you again very soon.
Aponte returned to Caracas, continued building his data base, and waited for the other shoe to fall in the Makled case. There was no reason to flee, and the gringos hadn’t gotten back in touch with Aponte. Almost a year passed, and then the regime turned on Aponte.
Aponte’s sin: He signed an official security credential for Makled. The regime turned against Aponte, ordering his removal from the Supreme Court and “inviting”him to appear for a political interrogation – and, no doubt, a chavista-led lynching – by the National Assembly. After that, Aponte knew, would come extended incarceration, followed by a fabricated trial and lengthy prison sentence based on instructions that judges receive from Chavez and the Bolivarian judicial committee that meets secretly every Friday in Vice President Elias Jaua’s office. And this was the good scenario.
The bad scenario: Aponte would be killed. He was a weak link, someone who followed orders, but never a top insider, never one of the hardmen. But Aponte was a direct link between the chief gangsters at the top and Makled; he’s a veritable Pandora’s jar of information that could put a lot of people in jail or on the lam.
Aponte fled from Venezuela to Curacao by small craft. General Garcia Carneiro helped see him off – the two are friends. But the Netherland Antilles are teeming with Venezuelan and Cuban agents, so Aponte fled to Central America. He spent a week in hiding in a private home in Costa Rica, where the SOiTV interview was taped. Aponte was aided by the same Venezuelan who a year earlier had arranged the meeting with the FBI and DEA officials. Now the Venezuelan reached out again to the DEA, which agreed to send someone to Costa Rica to debrief Aponte.
Aponte wanted safe conduct to the US. But the DEA wanted to leave Aponte in Costa Rica and continue debriefing him there. A trip to the US was assured, but in a few days, not immediately. Arranging these things takes time, Aponte apparently was told. At this point the State Department finally intervened after being alerted to what was unfolding in Costa Rica, where the presence of what appeared to be Venezuelan and Cuban security operatives had been detected in San Jose.
State ordered DEA to get Aponte out of Costa Rica immediately. He was flown out after 2 AM for security reasons aboard a DEA aircraft to Puerto Rico; from there Aponte took a commercial flight to mainland US, accompanied by DEA. Reports in Caracas this week that Aponte was taken to the US via Puerto Rico by Martin Rodil are cowflop. Some alleged Twitters from Roger Noriega urging his followers to send queries to Aponte via different e-mail addresses also were cowflop. Noriega and his Venezuelan associates have not had any direct contact at all with Aponte.
It remains to be seen what – if anything – could happen next. I don’t expect the US government to act quickly against the gangsters fingered by Aponte, but quien sabe…maybe the gringos will surprise us, for a change. With Chavez clearly nearer to the end of his ride as master of the Bolivarian hacienda called Venezuela, anything could and likely will happen in Venezuela long before the gringos move to indict senior chavista gangsters in the US.
Of course, it’s possible that if Henrique Capriles Radonsky becomes Venezuela’s next president that Aponte’s files could be used by Venezuela’s judicial system to prosecute the chavista gangsters. No, I’m not joking, but I concede that it’s very unlikely this would happen, given the likely coming chaos in the country’s judicial system when Chavez finally goes down for the count.