Venezuela on May 16 demanded that the US extradite a former supreme court judge who has accused high-ranking figures of the Hugo Chávez government of links to drug-trafficking. The fugitive judge, Eladio Aponte Aponte, was removed from office in March over charges that he provided forged documents to accused trafficker Walid Makled. Aponte is co-operating with US authorities after his April 2 flight to Miami in a DEA-chartered plane. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the US must hand over Eliado Aponte, as there was a judicial process underway against him in Venezuela, and noted that an Interpol “red notice” has been issued for him. From the US, Aponte has publicly claimed that Chávez’s office and top military officials including Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva asked him to be lenient in the case against a lieutenant accused of trafficking drugs. Maduro counter-charges that the DEA is working to protect criminals and undermine the revolutionary process in Venezuela. He said if the US does not return Aponte, Washington would become “direct accomplices of these drug-trafficking mafias.” (InSight Crime, FT, May 15; Radio Nacional de Venezuela, May 14; WSJ, April 19)
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