Authorities in Aruba acting on US orders have arrested a former Venezuelan intelligence chief accused of ties to Colombia's FARC guerrillas and drug trafficking, underscoring the top level collusion with organized crime that plagues Venezuela's military.
Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, who had a close relationship with late President Hugo Chavez and served as Director of Military Intelligence between 2004 and 2011, was detained in Aruba on July 23, reported El Nacional. He faces charges of collaborating with guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), providing them with weapons, technological tools and uniforms, and also protecting their drug shipments.
Carvajal was blacklisted by the United States in 2008 for his alleged ties to the FARC. Military sources believe he began to forge a relationship with the guerrillas when he was a lieutenant coronel in the army, acting on Chavez's orders, reported El Nacional. According to Semana, Carvajal allowed top FARC leaders to maintain a presence inside Venezuelan military complex Fuerte Tiuna and also provided them with official identification documents that facilitated their travel to Venezuela.
In addition to his FARC ties, Carvajal was one of the high-level military officials Venezuelan cocaine broker Walid Makled, who was arrested in 2010, claimed were directly involved in drug trafficking. Makled said he gave Carvajal $50,000 a week in bribes.
InSight Crime Analysis
The case of Carvajal serves to highlight the extent to which organized crime has penetrated Venezuela's military forces, from corrupt border guards to the so-called "Cartel of the Suns" (Cartel de los Soles) -- a term used for senior military figures involved in drug trafficking.
SEE ALSO: Cartel de los Soles Profile
Numerous Venezuelan military officials have been implicated in drug trafficking in the past. In addition to Carvajal, the United States sanctioned another intelligence director and a former justice minister in 2008 for organized crime ties, and another four officials in 2011 based on information found on Raul Reyes' computers. Meanwhile, National Guard members have been arrested for cocaine trafficking several times, with the most recent major case that of 1.3 tons of cocaine found on an Air France flight that had taken off from Caracas' Maiquetia airport last year.
Members of the Cartel of the Suns are believed to have operated exchanging arms for cocaine with the FARC, and to have facilitated the guerrilla group's operations in the states of Apure and Zulia, in the border region with Colombia.