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Interpol notice tests U.S.-Venezuela relations

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Thu May 3, 2012
(file photo) Venezuelan minister Tareck El Aissami, pictured, said Interpol has issued a Red Notice for Eladio Aponte Aponte.
(file photo) Venezuelan minister Tareck El Aissami, pictured, said Interpol has issued a Red Notice for Eladio Aponte Aponte.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Interpol has issued a Red Notice for a fugitive judge, Venezuela says
  • But the ex-judge purportedly is a source for the U.S. Drug Eenforcement Administration
  • The DEA flew him to the United States
  • The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately comment

(CNN) -- A former Venezuelan judge -- a fugitive in his home country who was last known to be in the United States -- stands to become a source of contention between the two nations.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for Eladio Aponte Aponte, Venezuelan Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said Wednesday night. The notice is an international alert that asks any country with information about his whereabouts to arrest him with a view to his extradition.

But Aponte Aponte counts on support from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for whom he purportedly works as a source. The former Supreme Court justice fled to Costa Rica, and last month was transported from there to the United States in a DEA aircraft, officials of the Central American country said.

Venezuelan officials removed Aponte Aponte from his post in March, accusing him of providing a government credential to a man authorities allege was one of the world's top drug lords.

Aponte Aponte, who has not confirmed or denied that accusation, left Venezuela the day he was supposed to face questioning in the Venezuelan National Assembly.

The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately comment on whether it would honor the Interpol notice.

In April, Aponte Aponte sat down for an interview with SOiTV in Miami in which he claimed he made rulings in cases based on requests from Chavez and other top officials.

"They just asked for favors that I complied with. And woe be the judge that refused to cooperate. ... They were dismissed," Aponte Aponte said.

Several of his remarks contradicted previous statements by top Venezuelan officials -- including Chavez.

Asked whether there are political prisoners in Venezuela -- something Chavez has previously denied -- Aponte Aponte said yes.

CNN has not independently confirmed the former justice's accusations.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro last month accused the United States of trying to destabilize his country's government.

"It is easy to understand how a fugitive from justice processed for his connections with drug trafficking mafias and removed from his job has sold his soul to the DEA," Maduro said. "The DEA has appeared again as a political actor in Venezuela against Venezuela."

While the Venezuelan justice minister provided a copy of the Interpol notice on the Internet, it did not appear on Interpol's website.

Interpol said that countries have the option of not publicizing the Red Notice on its website.

CNN's Catherine Shoichet contributed to this report.

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