Chicken run: The curious case of Venezuela’s Pollo Carvajal

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz | July 30th, 2014

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Chicken run: The curious case of Venezuela's Pollo Carvajal

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?

In addi­tion to good’ol mil­i­tary thug­gery, Miguel Octavio asserts that the Nether­lands caved in (empha­sis added):

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
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and cul­ture at Fausta’s blog.

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?

In addition to good’ol military thuggery, Miguel Octavio asserts that the Netherlands caved in (emphasis added):

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
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.

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