Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios

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.

Information from the computers of ex-FARC commander "Raul Reyes," killed by Colombian security forces in 2008, showed Carvajal had provided the FARC with military rocket launchers, reported Semana.

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.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...