Venezuela to Manufacture Kalashnikov Rifles

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In a move that many analysts see as potentially destabilizing for the region, Venezuela will begin to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles with the assistance of Russian arms company Rosoboronexport, beginning next May.

According to Colombian daily El Espectador, the plan is ahead of schedule. “We now plan to finish building the factories and start production in May 2011,” said Igor Sevastianov, deputy director of the Russian company. “We want to produce the first test series that month.” The construction of factories to produce Kalashnikov assault rifles and ammunition began in early 2009 following a contract signed between Moscow and Caracas.

According to the Geneva-based Small Arms Institute, the world has produced an estimated 100 million Kalashnikov assault rifles since the end of the second World War. Today, it is the weapon of choice for insurgencies and criminal gangs across the globe because of its relatively low cost, durability and ease of use. Venezuela is a regular transit point for these weapons, and leftist insurgencies, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers in neighboring Colombia regularly obtain small arms on the black market.

Because of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s alleged support for Colombia’s insurgent groups, the deal now has many analysts worried that the president may now attempt to provide them with arms manufactured in his country. According to a 2003 study published by the RAND Corporation, “although there is no definitive evidence at this point that links the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to a deliberate policy of arming Colombia’s guerrillas, it is possible that sympathetic individual members of the Venezuelan military have supplied both weapons and ammunition [to the guerrillas].”

Hugo Chavez: US Wants Makled to ‘Vomit’ Accusations

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InSight Crime translates an excerpt from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s weekly column, “Las Lineas de Chávez,” in which Chavez speaks of Colombia’s decision to extradite alleged Venezuelan drug trafficker Walid Makled to his home country instead of the US. Makeled is thought to have knowledge of corruption at the highest levels in Venezuela.

“On Tuesday November 16, (Colombian) President (Juan Manuel) Santos said that his government would extradite Walid Makled drug trafficker extradited to Venezuela. I quote verbatim his words: ‘I gave my word (to President Chávez), and once the legal proceedings are over he will be extradited to Venezuela. I am a man of my word.
‘This ‘capo’ has to responde to the Venezuelan justice for countless crimes.
I believe that this announcement is of utmost importance and reaffirms the common policy, shared by President Santos and this president. Let’s not get distracted: the political will that is necessary for the vigorous revival of relations between Colombia and Venezuela is on course, as is the growing trust between our two countries.
The imperial rulers want Makled to be extradited to the United States. Washington wants to use him to vomit all sorts of accusations against the ‘Bolivarian Revolution,’ against the political and military leadership, so it can include Venezuela in the blacklist of countries supporting the drug trade.
Do not forget that the mainstream media, nationally and internationally, has been positioning the image of Venezuela as a rogue state, following the imperial strategy and creating the conditions for a military intervention. What it comes down to is that they want to bring this president before the International Criminal Court. They will fail: they will not be able to repeat the tragic scene of Panama in 1989. Here there is a people and an Armed Forces that are ready to protect our sovereignty.
I believe in the word of President Santos. And I have the assurance that the Government of Colombia is not going to partake in Washington’s nauseating games that it devises in its dirty war laboratories.”

Original Text:

“El martes 16 de noviembre el Presidente Santos anunció que su Gobierno extraditará al narcotraficante Walid Makled a Venezuela. Quiero citar textualmente sus palabras: Yo le di mi palabra (al Presidente Chávez) y una vez se surtan los trámites jurídicos se hará la extradición a Venezuela. Yo soy un hombre de palabra.

Este capo tiene que responder ante la justicia venezolana por sus innumerables delitos.

Considero que este anuncio tiene la mayor importancia y reafirma la voluntad política común y compartida, por el Presidente Santos y por este servidor, de no dejarnos descarrilar: la voluntad política que es necesaria para que el vigoroso proceso de relanzamiento de las relaciones entre Colombia y Venezuela prosiga su curso, fortaleciendo la confianza entre nuestros dos países.

El imperio pretende que Makled sea extraditado a Estados Unidos. Washington quiere usarlo para que vomite toda clase de acusaciones contra la Revolución Bolivariana, contra su liderazgo político y militar, y así incluir a Venezuela en la lista negra de países que apoyan al narcotráfico.

No se olvide que la canalla mediática, nacional e internacional, ha venido posicionando la imagen de Venezuela como un Estado delincuente, obedeciendo a la estrategia imperial de crear las condiciones para una intervención militar. En último término, se trata de llevar a este servidor ante la Corte Penal Internacional. Fracasarán: no van a poder reeditar el trágico escenario de Panamá en 1989. Aquí hay un pueblo y una Fuerza Armada con la más firme disposición de hacer respetar nuestra soberanía.

Creo en la palabra del Presidente Santos. Y tengo la certeza de que el Gobierno de Colombia no se va a prestar a este nauseabundo juego de Washington a través de sus laboratorios de guerra sucia.”

Colombia to Extradite Suspect to Venezuela, not US

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In an unprecedented gesture of diplomacy, Colombian officials have announced that an alleged Venezuelan drug trafficker arrested earlier this year will be extradited to Venezuela instead of the United States, reports Colombian daily El Tiempo.

The suspect, Syrian-born Walid Makled, stands accused of smuggling tons of cocaine into the US from airstrips that he owned through his company’s airline, Aeropostal, which was nationalized by the Venezuelan government following the arrest of Makled and his three brothers, Alex, Basel, and Abdala, last year. Walid was arrested in Colombia in August. Although Venezuelan authorities requested Makled long before American officials, the latter has a long history of extraditing criminals accused of drug trafficking, and it was widely expected that Makled would face charges in a US court. According to Colombian President Manuel Santos, the decision to extradite Makled was the result of an agreement between him and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  “I gave my word to President Chavez,” said Santos, “that once the judicial processes are completed we would hand this individual over to Venezuelan authorities.”  The Venezuelan publication El Universal recently reported that Chavez believed a trial in the US might be used to wrongly implicate his government in drugs trafficking, possibly justifying international sanctions against him.  In exchange for Makled, Chavez has announced that he will hand over guerrillas captured in Venezuela to Colombian officials.  These announcements represent a significant change in relations between the two countries, which have been at odds.

Colombia, Venezuela to Prepare Joint Anti-Narcotics Treaty

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Colombia’s Defense Minister, Rodrigo Rivera, announced that he would meet on November 19th with the Venezuelan Minister of the Interior, Tarek El Aissami, to prepare a joint treaty on drug trafficking, reports the Venezuelan daily El Universal.

Rivera stressed the importance of Venezuelan cooperation in issues of border security, and said that the treaty will also address the struggle against kidnapping and extortion.

To highlight the importance of a future agreement, Rivera gave an example of a recent kidnapping case in which Venezuelan authorities worked with their Colombian counterparts to locate and free a woman who was taken across the border from the city of Arauca.  

The announcement comes at a time when Venezuela’s role in international drug trafficking is increasing, as cited in a 2009 Congressional report which stated that “the lack of Venezuelan counternarcotics cooperation is a significant impediment to the US capacity to interdict drugs en route to the United States.”  Because of this, Colombian drug cartels increasingly transporting cocaine across the border in order to export it through Central America.