HomeNewsBriefVenezuela Pilot's Extradition Could Lead to Cartel of the Suns Revelations
BRIEF

Venezuela Pilot's Extradition Could Lead to Cartel of the Suns Revelations

CARTEL DE LOS SOLES / 28 JUN 2017 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Colombia has extradited a Venezuelan former army captain with ties to the administration of President Nicolás Maduro to face drug trafficking charges in the United States, in a move that likely has Venezuela's government worried over what stories he might tell US authorities.

On June 24, Yazenky Lamas was flown to the United States where he will be tried for his alleged role in coordinating over 100 drug flights from Venezuela to Central America and the Caribbean, reported Semana.

Prosecutors allege that Lamas played a central role in organizing drug flights by obtaining air traffic codes that allowed the planes to pass themselves off as commercial flights, among them a flight that travelled from the Venezuela-Colombia border region to Honduras with 1.6 tons of cocaine in 2015, according to Semana.

Lamas, who used to be the personal pilot of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores, according to El Nuevo Herald, was arrested in Colombia in June last year. He claimed to be sourcing pedigree dogs, but Colombian investigators told Semana they believe he was in the country to make contact with the powerful paramilitary mafia known as the Urabeños.

InSight Crime Analysis

Lamas is a figure with political connections that run to the very top of the Venezuelan government, and if he decides to turn informant he could potentially provide devastating information on the Cartel of the Suns -- the term used to describe drug trafficking networks inside Venezuela's military.

There have already been strong indications of concern on the part of the Maduro administration; the Nuevo Herald reported that late last year government envoys pleaded with their Colombian counterparts not to extradite the former military man to the United States.

Such tactics have succeeded previously, most notably in the case of Walid Makled, a now-convicted drug trafficker with high-level state connections, whom the Colombian government extradited to Venezuela instead of the United States in 2011.

SEE ALSO: The Cartel of the Suns Profile

However, the political context is very different now. In 2011, Colombia was keen to improve relations with Venezuela -- which at that time was politically polarized and economically struggling, but far from the collapsing state seen today. Colombia also reportedly had favors to ask in return, namely, the extradition of Colombian guerrillas and the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars of trade debt.

In contrast, the Venezuelan government today is increasingly internationally isolated over its brutal attempts to put down a wave of political protest, and its inability to resolve an economic crisis and rampant corruption. In this context, pressure over the Venezuelan government's alleged collusion in drug trafficking has been steadily building, with US authorities prosecuting cases such as the "narco nephews" case involving the first lady's nephews, and levying a series of sanctions against state actors, including placing Vice President Tareck El Aissami on its "Kingpin List."

Colombia therefore would have little to gain and much to lose by cooperating with a government that is not only approaching pariah status internationally, but -- depending on what Lamas tells US authorities -- could also be on the verge of being exposed as a criminal state.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

SECURITY POLICY / 7 DEC 2015

Venezuela's opposition coalition gained control of the National Assembly during the December 6 elections, an historic political victory that…

ARGENTINA / 6 JAN 2017

In 2016, governments continued to use militarized approaches to combating organized crime in Latin America, despite mounting evidence of human…

COLECTIVOS / 16 MAY 2018

There is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes a "mafia state." Here are seven arguments as to why we…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Dirty Money and Tren de Aragua

29 OCT 2021

InSight Crime was delighted to support investigative reporting in the Americas through a workshop with our friends at Connectas, a non-profit journalism initiative that facilitates collaboration…