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New York Post

Why I almost had Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arrested

By Patricia Bullrich,


Late last month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had expected to attend the seventh Community of Latin American Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Along with representing his nation — and positioning himself as a regional leader — Maduro hoped to use the event to reconnect with his ideological counterpart, the newly-reelected Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

But this did not happen.

Maduro is an accused drug trafficker named in 2020 by the US Dept. of Justice (DOJ) as a leader of the Los Soles cartel , with a DOJ indictment issued in 2020 accusing him, among other crimes, of “narco-terrorism, corruption and drug trafficking.” Armed with a $15 million State Department reward for Maduro’s arrest and supported by evidence of human rights violations, the Argentinian opposition made clear that Maduro should be arrested if he stepped on to our soil — and potentially deported to the US.
Along with allegations of drug trafficking and human rights violations, Maduro has helped steer his nation to economic ruin. In a country with some of the world’s greatest oil reserves, many Venezuelans lack adequate access to gas and energy.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former Chilean Pres. Michelle Bachelet led the United Nations investigation into Maduro’s alleged human rights abuses.
LatinContent via Getty Images

“Los Soles” is a multinational drug operation composed of Venezuelan officials, along with members of the Colombian guerrilla group, FARC, and agents of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel . According to the DOJ, through this network, Los Soles – with Maduro allegedly at the helm – has helped turn millions of Americans into drug addicts. Along the way, Venezuelan leaders and their accomplices have enriched themselves without restraint.

Maduro is not just an accused drug peddler. He has also been accused of severe human-rights violations in a series of reports and investigations by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. These alleged violations include as many as 7,000 executions by the Maduro regime . Under the prompting of six regional governments, Venezuela is also being investigated by the ICC for crimes against humanity. Unsurprisingly, Venezuela has repeatedly sought to thwart these proceedings.

This is the true face of Maduro, an accused drug dealer and human-rights violator. Yet somehow he expected to be welcomed to Argentina with open arms? And as the special invitee of President Alberto Fernández, who shares Maduro’s populist leanings and under whose rule Argentina is struggling — having hit a record inflation rate of 94.8% last year . Leaders like Fernández, Maduro and Lula had rallied around the CELAC summit, hoping that it would distract from their own domestic disarray and — as desired by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez — eventually replace the far more moderate Organization of American States (OAS).
Maduro had hoped to meet with newly re-elected Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his time in Buenos Aires.
Manuel Cortina / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

But apparently spooked by the specter of arrest and deportation, Maduro wisely stayed home. In his absence, the summit presented two opposing realities of contemporary Latin American politics. On the one hand, outdated, autocratic leaders from places like Cuba, Nicaragua and even Venezuela sang each other’s praises. At the same time, Uruguayan Pres. Luis Lacalle Pou offered a much-needed breath of fresh air when he openly declared that those in attendance included countries ‘that do not respect democracy, its institutions or human rights’. Pou’s sentiments were particularly poignant, inspiring many in Argentina’s own Venezuelan diaspora to take to the streets in Buenos Aires, anguished at the mere possibility that a dictator like Maduro might have been welcomed in the country. Many Argentines, myself included, marched alongside these brave Venezuelans committed to combating impunity.

This was not the first time Argentina had considered employing international legal statutes to send a message to Caracas. Last year, Argentina’s Ministry of Justice detained an aircraft owned by Venezuelan aviation company Emtrasur that was previously owned by Iranian-backed Mahan Air. The latter company allegedly provided support for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and, according to US authorities, transferred the craft to Emtrasur in violation of an order issued by the US Department of Commerce.
Maduro may have stayed home, but Uruguayan Pres. Luis Lacalle Pou attended the CELAC summit in Argentina, where he spoke out against anti-democratic practices in Latin America.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Had Maduro arrived in Argentina, it would have signaled approval for Caracas’ ongoing relationship with Iran, a harrowing topic for our country which endured a string of Iranian-backed terror attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets in the 1990s, which killed hundreds of Argentine citizens.

But we had the law on our side, most notably provisions of the Rome Statute of the ICC, which subject crimes against humanity to international jurisdiction. We also instituted judicial proceedings before the Argentine Justice Ministry to demonstrate our solid legal footing in preventing Maduro from entering the country.
This Emtrasur cargo plane was detained in Buenos Aires for months last year. The Venezuelan-owned aircraft was suspected of having illegal ties to Iran.

Clearly spooked, Maduro came to his senses as he seemed to understand the reach and power of an independent Latin American justice system. It’s a system willing and able to impose limits on attempts to transform our country into a safe haven for the worst examples of regional anti-democratic demagoguery. (Unsurprisingly, Maduro said he was staying Venezuela because of “security reasons”).

Despite Maduro’s purported connections to drug trafficking and human rights violations, our president was still prepared to welcome him to Argentina. But we are a nation that believes in the principles of sovereignty and the fundamental need to respect human rights for all. That is why, in my capacity as leader of the opposition and former Security Minister, I sent a clear message that Argentina respects the rules of law — both domestic and international.
The author says she was inspired by the rule of law to both prevent Maduro from entering her country and potentially having him arrested — and even deported — if he had chosen to do so.
Courtsey of Patricial Bullrich

Most crucially, we were unwavering in our willingness to activate DEA alert mechanisms established under the Argentina-US Criminal Cooperation Treaty signed back in 1990 . This, I believe, is why Maduro remained in Caracas – fearful of exiled Venezuelans, afraid of democratic values like my own – and terrified of the US justice officials who almost inevitably would have placed him behind bars. And this is why Argentina – despite our very real genuine challenges — has its brightest days ahead.  We are a nation committed to human dignity and respect for international law — which leaves no place for men like Nicolas Maduro.

Pa tricia Bullrich is the President of the Argentine opposition Propuesta Republicana party, a former Minister of Security and candidate for the Argentine presidency

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