Venezuela Deports 2 Drug Trafficking Suspects to U.S.

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela deported two drug trafficking suspects to the United States on Monday including an alleged boss of the powerful Norte del Valle cartel in neighboring Colombia. The action comes only days after the U.S. criticized Venezuela's cooperation in fighting illegal narcotics.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said U.S. authorities had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Jaime Alberto Marin, a leader of the Norte del Valle cartel also know as "Beto Marin." Another suspected trafficker, Omar Guzman Martinez, was also deported, El Aissami said.

State television broadcast footage of both suspects, who wore handcuffs and bulletproof vests, as they were escorted to a waiting plane by heavily armed police at Simon Bolivar International Airport.

National Guard troops and agents from Venezuela's anti-drug force arrested Marin on Sept. 16 on Margarita Island, a resort off Venezuela's Caribbean coast. Guzman Martinez, who is from the Dominican Republic, was arrested on Aug. 25 in Caracas.

Venezuelan state television reported that Marin took control of the Norte del Valle cartel after Wilber Varela, alias "Jabon," or "Soap," one of Colombia's most-wanted traffickers, was killed in 2008.

Marin has been wanted in the U.S. since 2007 on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Guzman Martinez is wanted in the U.S. for purportedly shipping cocaine to the United States.

Venezuela has become a major hub for traffickers smuggling Colombian cocaine to the United States and Europe.

U.S. and Colombian officials have accused President Hugo Chavez's government of lax anti-drug efforts, but Chavez insists his government is doing everything possible to stem the flow of drugs through Venezuela.

El Aissami disputed the findings of a White House report released last week that accused Venezuela of failing to cooperate with other countries in fighting drug trafficking.

"We don't accept blackmail from the empire," he said, referring to the U.S. government.

El Aissami said Venezuela has captured dozens of suspected major drug traffickers in recent years, including 16 so far this year.