by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz
Hugo Carvajal a.k.a. “el Pollo” (the Chicken) is one of the guys who took part in Hugo Chávez’s unsuccessful 1992 military coup, later rising to the rank of general and chief of military intelligence, but with a sideline of drug trade: Here’s the indictment in the U.S. District Court accusing Carvajal of coordinating the transport of 5,600 kilos (6.17 tons) of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico.
Carvajal, according to the computers belonging to Raul Reyes, the FARC’s #2 man, that were captured by Colombian security forces in 2008, was one of Hugo Chávez government’s key liaisons to the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the murderous narcoguerrilla group).
Now, don’t ask me how a guy nicknamed el Pollo gets to be a general, in charge of military intelligence from 2004-2011, or, for that matter, Venezuelan Consul to Aruba, but current president Nicolas Maduro named him Consul to Aruba all the same, knowing that the U.S. Treasury Dept, the DEA and a U.S. District Court (mentioned above) had indicted Carvajal last year. Last week Carvajal presented himself in Aruba, where he was detained since the Dutch knew of the indictments.
Venezuelan journalist Patricia Poleo was very pleased. She has been following the Carvajal story for a decade and alleges that Carvajal is not only a drug kingpin, but also a torturer. Spanish journalist Emili Blasco reports that Carvajal allegedly “was in charge of procuring the drugs from the FARC and controlled the distribution process in the U.S. and Europe, along with laundering the drug money through PDVSA,” the government-owned oil company. Carvajal also is under investigation for his role on the attacks to the Colombian consulate and the Jewish center in Caracas.
According to reports, Carvajal was flown to Aruba by man from Texas named Roberto Rincón in a private plane leased by PDVSA president Rafael Ramírez.
The general came to Aruba in a plane that belongs to an associate of Rafael Ramírez, president of the oil company. Besides, they point to the extraordinary information Carvajal can provide regarding the relationship of Chávez’s Venezuela with Hezbollah and Iran. “It’s like Pablo Escobar and Vladimiro Montesinos rolled into one, an intelligence chief who is also a druglord,” claim the sources.
Getting Carvajal is a very big deal indeed.
Well, lo and behold, the chicken flew the coop on Sunday, when he was released by Aruban authorities, after Holland decided he did qualify for diplomatic immunity but declared him person non-grata. Immediately, Carvajal flew to Caracas, where he received a hero’s greeting by Maduro at a PSUV (Venezuelan Socialist Party) event.
One of my sources also mentions that the Obama administration had 30 days to hand over its Extradition Request to Aruba but failed to. It reminds me of drug kingpin Walid Makled, who was released to Venezuela by president Santos of Colombia after the U.S. dragged its feet.
I did a roundup of questions from Venezuelan bloggers regarding this sudden release.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela pressured Aruba by threatening to withdraw from a contract to manage Curaçao’s refinery, which would have put at risk some 8,000 jobs, and Aruba’s chief prosecutor asserts that
the Netherlands’ release of a former top Venezuelan official wanted by the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking came after Venezuela raised economic and military pressure
as Venezuelan navy ships neared Aruba and Curaçao over the weekend.
Holland is a member of NATO and as such Aruba would be protected, as WSJ commenter Donald Hutchinson points out, but, in the Obama administration’s era of “smart diplomacy”, the Dutch couldn’t count on that:
Assuming that US intelligence was not asleep, all,it would take would be a fly over by US Navy jets and a notification that any offensive action would be met by the immediate destruction of their ships. Holland is a member of NATO and such actioned would clearly be sanctioned,
It would also be a devastating set back to the former bus driver running Venezuela for bringing shame to their military.
But what one might expect from a timid White House and a preoccupied State Department?
Clearly, everyone applied pressure, but the weak link did not turn out to be Aruba as I suggested on my first post, but rather The Netherlands, as reportedly even Russia played a role, exchanging concessions on the Ucraine [sic, i.e., regarding the investigation on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot over Ukraine] plane for helping release Carvajal. No matter what anyone says or how this is interpreted, it was a severe blow to the US, who would have loved to get Carvajal onshore.
In reaction to the release, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has lifted his hold on a bill that would impose asset and visa freezes on Venezuelan officials who perpetrated human rights abuses against protesters in recent months.
The U.S. State Department spokeswoman’s reaction to the Netherlands deciding that Carvajal qualified for diplomatic immunity and shipping him off to Venezuela after declaring him person non-grata? “This is not the way law enforcement matters should be handled.”
At least she didn’t #hashtag it.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.