"Racketeering occupies top government levels"
"Organized crime is composed, among others, of police and army officers"
Ex-president of Conacuid (National Commission against Drug Illicit Use) under the current government and knowledgeable of the topic, Mildred Camero does not hesitate to finger retired Colonel Eladio Aponte, ex judge of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), as a constituent element of a drug traffic organization ingrained in the top government.
"I was shocked by that gentleman's remarks. It was terrible for me. As a judge serving in the judiciary for more than 35 years I never saw what a nerve. First of all his stance is that of a criminal, lacking in dignity and devoid of juridical language characteristic in any judge. Besides, he is cynic, as he avowed extortion and manipulation of case files."
If this is the appetizer, what will come next at the time of negotiating?
He did not tell the whole truth. He just said as much as necessary because he was aware of the impact he would make by showing up only. When he was dismissed, I wondered why. Certainly, giving a credential to a drug trafficker is felony, but there must be something more serious and deeper. I always deemed it as a drug case.
Was accusing Aponte a mistake?
I think so. They imagined that it would be same as with (ex TSJ justice) Luis Velásquez Alvaray, who recounted a couple of silly things and ran out. Instead, that gentleman (Aponte) was preparing, because when he affirms that nobody would take care of him and they were isolating him, he sensed what could happen. I think, further, that he must have evidence of something, because nobody is to contact the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Administration) and the DEA is not to move a plane, provided there is plausible suspicion. It must be something gross.
In addition to a political decision, it has to do with illicit drugs, because Makled had been given a credential. I understand that he worked for the military intelligence. Accordingly, there were strong links with drug traffic. Makled was involved in drug traffic since 2003. By then, we started to receive information about his ties to top government groups. Hence, we prepared five reports and seven years ago, we revealed what is happening nowadays.
In 2008, you said that an alleged drug trafficker killed that year, Wiber "Jabón" Varela, had been protected by civilian and military authorities.
Absolutely. Next came Makled's linkage with José María Corredor, a.k.a. El Boyaco, a drug trafficker who acted as middleman with the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces); he dealt with exchange of arms for drugs and also worked with high-ranking military officers.
Is it impossible to determine Aponte's responsibility without binding him to a network of which he is just another component?
Observe the remarks of that gentleman and you will immediately realize that he is not smart, but with a very low intellectual level and feeble-minded. They thought that they could easily manipulate him; otherwise, you cannot understand how come that he became a magistrate. Therefore, they demeaned him; they thought that he would do nothing and look, what he turned out to be.
We know from the outset that there will be no investigation. Anyway, if you were in charge, where would you begin?
No investigation will be conducted because many people are involved, yet I would begin with the relationship between Aponte and Makled. This is pivotal. The kind of deal between them would have to be elucidated. Did I pay you USD 53 million for being a partner to (airliner) Aeropostal? Or for loading drugs into the company's aircrafts and carrying them I would receive a fee? Next, the branches should be probed and go to the core (Makled), in order to expand the range and pursue accountability. As far as I am concerned, it is a big organization.
Composed of whom?
We have not realized yet that racketeering has been established in Venezuela at top government level. Drug traffic is among the most cost-effective crimes. And this begins with corruption. Next, you are gradually involved and do not only charge for blackmail, bribery, or issuing a decision, but you trespass on the barrier and find that drug traffic is the most profitable business and join the organization.
About whom are we talking?
Listen, who did kill (ex Apure state governor Jesús) Aguilarte in Maracay (the capital city of central-northern Aragua state) and why? Or General (Wilmer) Moreno in Anzoátegui state? Contract killings, not only because of corruption, but also because of drug traffic. This is a standard way of killing in the drug traffic environment. And that organization, composed of members of the armed forces, who act as criminals, as in the case of Walid Makled, started sort of war with the latter due to conflicting interests as to the control of drug traffic.
Was Venezuela's withdrawal from the DEA in the interest of that organization? Or was it a political step for ideological reasons?
It was a political step because the economic interests of some powerful individuals involved in drug traffic were in jeopardy.
Who are they?
I cannot tell, but there were many people linked to drug traffic and their interests were endangered. Firstly, they dumped me; I was not dismissed but replaced, as they said. Next, it was the DEA's turn, for it had all the information. Intelligence reports fingered the people involved in drug traffic and tied to the national government. For this reason, I left while they charged the DEA with the crime perpetrated by them, as controlled deliveries are contemplated in the Vienna Convention and have been made for long.
You took part in those controlled deliveries.
As a judge, I took part in them, because they are not illegitimate and mostly because they used to be witnessed by a judge and a public prosecutor. Then Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez knew that the DEA worked with us in a taskforce including public prosecutors. Counter narcotics efforts were made. Now, therefore, many foreign police bodies keep a close eye on this activity because Venezuela is a safe passage to take illicit drugs to any European country.
Could Venezuelan officials face trial? Or could Venezuela be declared a narco-state?
Yes, under the Rico Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). Should they accept, as it were, appearing before a grand jury, a federal court, and Venezuela is declared a country involved in drug traffic, to such an extent as to become a narco-state, many things can happen. Designated individuals are deprived of their US visas; their assets are seized and finally, a bench warrant is issued, to prevent them from leaving the country. And this is the case for considering that a crime has been committed against the US sovereignty.
It is said that over 50% of the illicit drugs used in Europe passes through Venezuelan territory. In the event of really fighting drug traffic, would we face a situation similar to that of Mexico, although to a lesser extent?
The point at issue is that historically we have not taken seriously the real significance of drug traffic. In the face of such a serious situation, no balanced policy has been implemented. You should not only fight the supply, but also the demand of drugs. However, Latin American governments tend only to repress instead of preventing. We put prevention aside.
That has been precisely the thesis of US governments.
It is somewhat different, because the concept of security and defense in the United States encompasses not only the State sovereignty, but also citizens' sovereignty. We, to the contrary, regard security and defense as related to the nation only. We have boiled down the concept and disregarded citizen's security. Policies are made but not enforced. This is the case because for many years -and that has increased in the last decade in Venezuela- some members of the armed forces kept in touch with drug traffickers.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
José Vicente Rangel clearly said: "We are not conducting negotiations threatened with a gun in the head." He warned behind closed doors in the midst of the social upheaval occurred during the oil strike in 2002 and 2003. Dissenting Timoteo Zambrano answered back that no other option was available: "The thing is that otherwise, you do not negotiate."