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El Nacional, one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Venezuela, published an interview Thursday with AEI fellow Roger Noriega detailing Noriega’s allegations that former Venezuelan Supreme Court judge Eladio Aponte Aponte is cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to be a witness in the trials of senior officials in Hugo Chavez’s government.:
Aponte has documentary “evidence” out of Venezuela, says former U.S. ambassador to the OAS
Former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States Roger Noriega believes the retired colonel and former military prosecutor, Eladio Aponte Aponte, will be a special witness in the trials of senior officials in the government of Hugo Chavez.
Noriega was the first to point out publicly that the former Supreme Court judge had entered into talks with officials of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Costa Rica.
On Wednesday, he answered a questionnaire sent by email.
“Aponte was interviewed by the DEA. Now that he is cooperating with U.S. authorities, it would be normal for him to be available to other law enforcement agencies working on related cases involving Venezuelan authorities or other Venezuelans who are suspected of being involved in criminal activities,” he said.
He then said: “I have never seen a system so involved in the drug trade as the one that exists today in Venezuela, and I have never heard of a witness who is in a better position to bear witness to the criminal activities of dozens of officials in the highest levels of that government.”
According to Noriega, the Chavez regime would be unsustainable if even a fraction of the accusations made against senior active officers are found to be true.
“It should be understood that dozens of police officers and U.S. attorneys have been working for many years to build solid cases against drug lords in Venezuela. I think we have very strong cases against many officials at the highest level of government,” he added.
For the former ambassador, “Aponte can be the perfect witness because he has personal knowledge of the criminal network, the modus operandi and personal contact with very high level officials who are the masterminds of these crimes.”
– How many interviews did Aponte in Costa Rica and what were the specific issues that played there? You suggested that he had accused General Cliver Alcalá in the killing of former governor Aguilarte Jesus.
“I can not give those details. The facts of these cases will come to light when prosecutors issue their indictments. The U.S. government will have to prove the case.”
– Does the fact that Aponte has obtained special permission to enter the United States indicate that he will be used as a witness?
“Aponte is willing to appear before a federal court in the United States and further strengthen the accusations that have been made by federal agencies and prosecutors. He also can guide prosecutors in existing cases with names, dates and actions committed, and to help identify other targets for investigation.”
– What precautions have been taken to protect the retired colonel’s family?
“I have no information on that.”
– Did Aponte offer documentation about the people he accused or the facts he provided?
“My impression is that he has lots of documents out of Venezuela that have already been collected.”
– Do you think that Aponte may return to Venezuela, or expect a life in America as a protected witness?
“I’m not going to speculate about his future. But he is safe now, and is very eager to tell his story.”
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