Former Officials Allege ‘Cartel War’ in Venezuelan Military

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Allegations of high-level corruption in Venezuela continue to mount, with two former government officials alleging that rival drug trafficking factions are battling within the upper levels of the Venezuelan security forces.

In a May 9 interview with Miami-based SoiTV, former Supreme Court Justice Luis Velasquez Alvaray claimed that elements of the Venezuelan military leadership is heavily involved in drug trafficking, and said there may be “a war among cartels” brewing in the armed forces. Among the most powerful, according to him, is the “Cartel de los Soles” (Cartel of the Suns), a shadowy group of drug traffickers in the military which allegedly includes generals.

Valasquez claimed that the April 23 murder of retired General Wilmer Antonio Moreno was related to his knowledge of criminal activity, and fingered General Cliver Alcalay, head of the Army’s 4th Armored Division, as one of those responsible for the killing.

The assertion that Moreno was killed by criminal elements in the military was supported by recent remarks that the former head of anti-drug agency CONACUID Mildred Camero recently made to El Universal. Camero also insinuated that the same elements were behind the March 24 shooting of the former governor of Apure state Jesus Aguilarte, and said both were proof of an conflict among Venezuelan security forces involved in drug trafficking.

InSight Crime Analysis

If these allegations prove true, and high level military officials in Venezuela are indeed taking part in drug-fueled conflicts in the country, it could be extremely harmful to President Hugo Chavez’s public image. Chavez has previously laughed off allegations of drug trafficking in the military as propaganda designed to discredit him, but with two former government officials making open accusations against current military members, they are becoming harder to dismiss. The charges would also be deeply damaging to Chavez considering his public stance against rising insecurity in the country. If it emerges that he may have had knowledge that figures in the military were contributing to the violence, he will face difficulty winning the upcoming October elections.

However, these accusations must be taken with a grain of salt, much like the recent accusations made by former Supreme Court judge Eladio Aponte. All of these ex-officials have an axe to grind, and an interest in casting the Chavez administration as deeply infiltrated by criminals. Both Aponte and Alvaray are in exile (Aponte in the US and Alvaray in Costa Rica), and face corruption charges against them in Venezuela. Moreno had a falling out with Chavez in 2005, and has since been a major critic of the government.

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