Release of Ex-Intelligence Chief Highlights Venezuela Official Impunity

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A former intelligence chief from Venezuela accused of drug trafficking and ties to Colombia’s FARC guerrillas has been released just days after his arrest in Aruba, illustrating the impunity enjoyed by Venezuelan officials with ties to the government.

On July 27, the government of the Netherlands ordered the release of ex-intelligence chief Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, who was deported to Venezuela and received by President Nicolas Maduro the same day, reported El Universal. Carvajal was arrested on the island of Aruba on July 23 at the request of the United States.  

Carvajal’s release came after the government of the Netherlands sent a letter to Aruba’s attorney general stating that the former intelligence director — who was appointed Venezuela’s Consul General in Aruba in January, but had yet to be approved by the Netherlands — had diplomatic immunity.

The US government accused Venezuela of threatening the Netherlands and Aruba in order to secure Carvajal’s release. Venezuela suspended flights to Aruba and other Dutch Caribbean territories on July 25, but allowed flights to resume the next day.

Aruba is an autonomous territory of the Netherlands, meaning the country has control over internal affairs, but defers to Holland in matters of defense and foreign relations.

InSight Crime Analysis

Carvajal served as Venezuela’s Director of Military Intelligence between 2004 and 2011, and was blacklisted in 2008 by the United States government, which claimed he had provided the FARC with weapons and protected their drug shipments. He also allegedly belongs to the Cartel of the Suns (Cartel de los Soles), a group of high-level military officials involved in cocaine trafficking, and according to the US government he colluded with Colombia’s Norte del Valle Cartel (see indictment below).

Other alleged Cartel of the Suns members blacklisted by the US include two governors who formerly served as defense minister and interior minister, another former general, a former intelligence director and two other officials. According to a former Supreme Court judge turned Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant, the government of late President Hugo Chavez had close ties to organized crime, and numerous military officials protected and moved cocaine shipments during his administration.

SEE ALSO: Cartel of the Suns Profile

Carvajal’s narrow escape indicates that he is safe only as long a Chavista government remains in power. The Netherlands has indicated that Carvajal will be arrested if he sets foot on Dutch territory again, and if the current Venezuelan regime loses power, Carvajal and his associates will likely be extradited to the United States. In the meantime, however, President Maduro will likely continue to protect allied officials, especially if they possess information that could incriminate his administration.  

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