The Colombia government on Wednesday approved the extradition to the United States of a drug trafficker who is linked to Joaquín ‘El Chapo‘ Guzmán’s cartel and who is also accused by Venezuelan government of playing a role in a plot to overthrown its president.
Elkin López, is known as ‘La Silla’ and ‘Doble Ruedas’ – meaning ‘The Chair’ and ‘Double Wheels’. He is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair as a result of having survived an assassination attempt in 2018.
He allegedly conspired to produce cocaine and ship and distribute it to the U.S., according to the Eastern District of Texas.
Venezuelan officials have also accused López of loaning out his farm on Colombia’s Caribbean coast to a group that was attempting to overthrow their president in May 2020.
The failed plot – dubbed Operation Gideon – involved Venezuelan military deserters being trained by dissidents and an American security firm, Silvercorp USA, headed by ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau.
The extradition to the US is on the drugs charges alone, and unrelated to the Venezuelan allegations.
López turned himself in to Colombian authorities in December 2019 after he showed up at a clinic seeking medical treatment for an ailment in his kidneys.
Elkin López, who is also known as ‘La Silla’ and ‘Doble Ruedas’, or ‘The Chair’ and ‘Double Wheels,’ allegedly conspired to ship cocaine to the United States, produce and distribute it, according to the Eastern District of Texas. His extradition to the U.S. was approved Wednesday by Colombia’s Ministry of Justice
Venezuela’s government claimed Colombia drug trafficker Elkin López met several times with the plotters of the failed May 2020 plot to remove President Nicolás Maduro (pictured)
The United States filed a petition for his extradition after he was placed under house arrest in May 2020.
Colombian newspaper El Heraldo reported that López maintained close working ties with El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel.
Colombia’s Ministry of Justice revealed that López shipped drugs to other countries and enriched himself by charging other cartels to use his smuggling routes.
In October 2020, authorities seized López’s assets, valued at $2.6 million, alleging he obtained the fortune from his criminal activities.
A member of a drug trafficking ring that operated out the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla and that was busted in February 2020 confessed to authorities that under López’s blessing, the organization was able to ship at least 500 kilos of cocaine on a monthly basis to the Sinaloa Cartel.
The gang made up to $2 million from each shipment and paid López a commission fee that ranged from 5% to 20%.
López was also accused by Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez of loaning his farm to a group of mercenaries who were being trained by ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau in a failed coup to remove President Nicolás Maduro in May 2020.
Rodríguez said that on May 1, two boats set off from a farm owned by López off Colombia’s Caribbean coastal department of La Guajira that borders with Venezuela.
According to Colombia’s Ministry of Justice, Elkin López received commission payments ranging from 5% to 20% each time a local drug trafficking organization used his routes to ship cocaine
López is said to be a family member of Marta González, wife of former general Cliver Alcalá, who fled the regime three years ago, turned himself in to Colombian authorities in March 2020 before he was extradited to the United States.
Alcalá, the Venezuelan government claims, also worked with Goudreau to put together the botched plot.
Goudreau, 43, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and head of a private-security company, Silvercorp USA, identified himself last year as the ringleader of the failed Operation Gideon.
Goudreau hatched the plot with a rebellious former Venezuelan Army General, Cliver Alcalá, to secretly train dozens of Venezuelan military deserters in secret camps in Colombia to carry out a swift operation against Maduro.
He claims he was hired last year by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, something the U.S.-backed Venezuelan lawmaker has denied.
The failed military incursion, which aimed to capture socialist leader Maduro, resulted in the detention in Venezuela of two of his former special forces colleagues: Airan Berry, 41, and Luke Denman, 34.
Berry allegedly told a Venezuela interrogator on video that the plotters had met with López on several occasions.
Eleven Venezuelans were also arrested as President Maduro revealed that they had knowledge of the raid plans after infiltrating the group in Colombia and were waiting to capture them.
The attack was foiled as the group attempted to enter Venezuela on fishing boats. Locals alerted authorities and they were subsequently arrested.
Six men were killed and almost all 47 of the others involved were captured.
Goudreau, who was coordinating the operation, was stuck in Florida after a boat he had intended to use to get him to Venezuela broke down and coronavirus travel restrictions left him stranded.
In a lengthy interview with Rolling Stone, Goudreau said he believes the plot had a good chance of being successful but blames everyone from double agents to the DEA and the FBI, for scuppering his plans.
‘Had we succeeded, you really think that the Guaidó administration would have said, ‘That’s not us, we want nothing to do with this’? Do you think that Donald Trump would have said, ‘That wasn’t us’? Every motherf***** that I talked to would have said, ‘That was us! U.S.A., baby!’ They would have taken credit for all of it. And if you say it’s not true, you’re pretty naive.’
Although the Trump administration used sanctions and support for political opponents in an attempt to pressure Maduro to step down, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said there was no ‘direct’ U.S. involvement in the attempted coup.