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Colombian drug cartel boss extradited to U.S.

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela handed over three major drug trafficking suspects to U.S. authorities on Tuesday including an alleged boss of Colombia's Norte del Valle cartel.

Carlos Alberto “Beto” Renteria is accused of being a leader of the Norte del Valle cartel that allegedly shipped hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States. U.S. authorities had offered a US$5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Renteria, 65, who was captured on July 4 in Caracas.

He was escorted to a U.S. Justice Department plane, handcuffed and with a lowered head, after two other Colombians recently arrested in Venezuela: Luis Frank Tello and Carlos Alberto Ojeda Herrera.

Both Tello and Ojeda shouted angrily as they were led to the plane at Caracas' international airport in Maiquetia, saying they are Venezuelans.

“This is a kidnapping!” Ojeda shouted. “I'm Venezuelan!”

Tello shouted that he supports President Hugo Chavez, saying: “I'm a Chavista!”

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami did not comment on their remarks. He said their deportation to the U.S. demonstrates Venezuela's commitment to counter-drug efforts.

The U.S. Embassy described all three suspects as “major narco-traffickers” and praised Venezuelan police for the arrests.

“These are very dangerous, violent individuals with outstanding warrants in the United States,” the embassy said in a statement. “The United States reaffirms its interest in deepening its cooperation with the Venezuelan government in the fight against narco-trafficking.”

Tello, 47, was arrested on June 23 in Caracas and is wanted in the United States for crimes including drug trafficking, conspiracy and laundering drug proceeds, Venezuelan officials say. El Aissami has accused Tello of collaborating with Mexico's Zetas drug gang.

Ojeda, 55, was arrested in May in eastern Anzoategui state, and Venezuelan authorities say he is wanted in the U.S. for trafficking heroin and cocaine to the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

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

U.S. and Colombian officials have previously accused Chavez's government of lax anti-drug efforts, but Chavez says his country is doing everything possible to stem the flow of drugs and he accuses Washington and Bogota of unfairly labeling his country a drug haven for political reasons.

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 Colombian drug cartel boss extradited to U.S. 
Anti-drug squad members of the National Guard escort Colombian drug trafficker Carlos Ojeda, center, upon arrival at the airport to be extradited to the U.S., in Caracas, on Tuesday, July 13. (AFP)

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