The arrest in Colombia of Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled has exposed the underworld of drugs, corruption, and organised crime that surrounds President Hugo Chavez. As I wrote back in 2006, it is simply impossible to ship tonnes of cocaine to international markets without complicity at the highest levels. And complicity Walid Makled revealed. The government of Santos in Colombia already knows everything that could be known about the level of involvement in drug trafficking of Hugo Chavez's ministers and closest collaborators. Makled is just exhibit M. The US government is equally aware.
In this saga, I think there's a point yet to be made. One of the individuals fingered by Makled in his accusations of official participation in large scale drug trafficking in Venezuela is Henry Rangel Silva. The US Department of the Treasury designated Rangel Silva and two other Venezuelan officials in 2008 for "materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a narco-terrorist organisation." Despite this, Hugo Chavez appointed Rangel Silva as Venezuela's army chief in July this year. A few days ago, Rangel Silva said that the Venezuelan army would not accept an opposition government, statements found "unacceptable" even by Chavez's main enabler at the OAS. Yesterday, Chavez promoted Rangel Silva to General in Chief.
What Chavez is doing is basically taking sides in this drug lords' war, and trying to ensure continuity in power. Makled had the full support of his regime, was able to send tonnes of cocaine from Venezuela -allegedly with the help of Rangel Silva, and gave generously to the Chavez 'revolution'. Now that he is arrested and revealing stuff, the caudillo wants to shut him down, and for that, he has elevated Rangel Silva, who's also been ordered to mess about in Venezuela's internal politics. Chavez is also desperately trying to have Makled extradited to Venezuela.
I wouldn't make a great deal about Rangel Silva's political statements, after all it's just another instance whereby high officials of the Chavez regime have threatened the opposition -who can forget Venezuela's oil Minister saying in 2004 that in the case of an opposition victory oil production would be disrupted? What interests me is what Colombia and the USA are going to do with the accumulating intelligence, and information provided by Makled. Chavez senses that his world is shrinking, he hinted as much from Cuba recently. Furthermore, I would argue that Chavez fears becoming the new Noriega. As his predecessor, radicalisation seems to be his only option. For only in power can Hugo Chavez and his criminal inner circle remain free men, the longer they remain in power the more radical they'll have to become to hold onto it, radicalisation will bring more crimes, more disturbing associations, more evidence against them. Interesting times ahead for Venezuela...