Thursday, November 18, 2010

Which way to Caracas?

My, how some things change. Colombia has likely extradited more of its citizens to the US for trial on narcotrafficking than has any other country in the world. And Colombia rarely let the fact that many of those men had committed much more henious crimes against humanity in their own country, against their own people, to stand in the way of using them as chips to maintain good relations with the country which financed its war effort, as well as to maintain good standing in the War on Drugs, (despite overwhelming evidence of the futility of it all).

Then, a few months ago, Colombia's new Pres. Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuela's perpetual Pres. Hugo Chavez kissed, made up and declared themselves best friends. Mr. Chavez had evidently forgotten that so recently he had called Colombia's leaders fascists, suspended trade and sent troops to the border. For his part, Mr. Santos had apparently forgotten the overwhelming evidence that Venezuela has supported the guerrillas who are trying to overthrow Colombia's democratic government.

Political opportunism has never been so much fun to watch.

The startling result of all of this? Walid Makled, Venezuelan narcotrafficking king in a Colombian prison requested in extradition by the United States is apparently about to be Venezuela.

Both nations want to get their hands on Makled for much more than his alleged drug offenses. Makled claims to have the scoop on Venezuelan government officials' colllusion with the cocaine trade. That's why U.S. officials want to interrogate him and Venezuelan officials want him quiet and filed away somewhere, perhaps then to be shipped back home to his native Middle East, where there'll be no risk of him spilling any beans.

The practical implications of all this are zero. For a long time it's been apparent that Venezuela is really corrupt and that some high officials likely collaborate with narcotraffickers. Makled's testimony would only permit more U.S. Republicans to rant against Chavez, just as they've been doing for years anyway, to reenergize those Cuban emigre voters who've become resigned to the Castros' staying in power until God makes his final call and display dangerous signals of paying attention to other issues, like health care and the economy.

U.S. courts might even indict more Venezuela government officials of narcotrafficking and other charges.

But they won't do what would really count - stop financing Mr. Chavez by boycotting Venezuelan oil. And Chavez will never shut the oil tap and quit filling the gas tank of that northern demonic empire. For his own part, Santos will regret having friended Chavez the next time that Chavez finds it useful to stir up nationalism by denouncing the empire's puppet next door. When that happens, I'm afraid Colombia won't find much gratitude for Makled's gift wrapping and deliver.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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