New York, August 23, 2010--The alleged mastermind in the 2009 murder of Venezuelan journalist Orel Sambrano, at left, was arrested Thursday in Colombia and is now facing extradition to Venezuela, local and international press reported.
Colombian authorities arrested Walid Makled García in the city of Cúcuta, near the border with Venezuela, according to news reports. A warrant was issued in 2008 for Makled in Venezuela on drug trafficking charges. Venezuelan authorities issued warrants for him last year in connection to Sambrano's murder and for allegedly participating in the 2009 killing of a local veterinarian, The Associated Press reported.
Venezuelan prosecutors asked a court in Caracas on Friday for the extradition of Makled on the drug trafficking charges and for planning the murder of Sambrano, according to local news accounts. He has been implicated in the plot to murder Sambrano, CPJ research shows, but denied he had any connection with the slaying in a letter he sent to Venezuelan media in 2009. Sambrano wrote critically about crime in Carabobo state, where Makled reportedly had links to local drug gangs.
The U.S. White House has named Makled as a major drug lord; he is wanted by a New York court and may face extradition to the U.S., according to the director of Colombia's national police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo.
"We welcome the arrest of the alleged mastermind in the killing of Orel Sambrano," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "We hope that the extradition process happens in a timely manner so that Walid Makled García can have his day in court."
A director of the local political weekly ABC de la Semana and broadcaster Radio América, Sambrano was shot by a motorcycle-riding assailant outside a video store in January 2009 in the city of Valencia, northern Venezuela, CPJ's research shows.
On May 18, a court in Carabobo state sentenced former sergeant Rafael Segundo Pérez to 25 years in prison on conspiracy charges related to the murder, according to CPJ's research. The court found that the he had monitored Sambrano's daily routine and provided information to the killers, the Caracas-based newspaper El Nacional reported.
Former police officer David Antonio Yánez Inciarte and two members of Los Piloneros criminal gang, Arístides José Carvajal Salgado and Víctor Reales Hoyo, are accused of carrying out the killing, according to local press reports. The prosecutor's office identified Carvajal as the gunman.Venezuelan investigative police arrested Yánez during a raid in February 2010, in the city of Moron, Carabobo state, according to press reports. Carvajal died in a shooting with the Venezuelan investigative police, El Universal reported on March 27. Reales remain at large.