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International Dispute Erupts After Venezuelan 'Diplomat' Released

Hugo Carvajal, Venezuela's former intelligence chief, was controversially released after his arrest on US drug trafficking charges in Aruba.

by Alicia Hernández
Jul 31 2014, 3:45pm

Image via Venezuelan Presidential Office

Venezuela's former head of intelligence, Hugo Carvajal, received a hero’s welcome home on Sunday after spending four days in custody in Aruba on a US arrest warrant, facing allegations of assisting Colombian guerrilla groups and drug trafficking.

Hours after the Netherlands' government released him from detainment in the Dutch Caribbean country — a tiny 70-square-mile island 15 miles off the coast of mainland South AmericaVenezuelan President Nicolás Maduro welcomed Carvajal back to Caracas and vouched for his innocence, calling the arrest an "illegal kidnapping."

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Carvajal, a former general who was appointed Venezuela's consul general to Aruba in January, has been listed on the US Treasury Department’s drug kingpin blacklist since 2008. He was flagged for allegedly collaborating with the drug trafficking operations of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a paramilitary group that the US State Department calls a “narco-terrorist” organization.

According to a report from the US Treasury, Carvajal is accused of protecting narcotics shipments during police raids, providing FARC militants with weapons, and granting some of them fake IDs so they could pose as Venezuelan government officials, entering and exiting the country at their leisure.

'We have no doubt that this was an ambush, a terrible ambush.'

Carvajal is under indictment in the US [scroll down for document] due to allegations that he used his status as head of Venezuelan military intelligence to aid drug traffickers in their illicit activities. The charges arose after Colombian forces recovered the so-called “FARC files” from a computer belonging to guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes, who died in Ecuador during a 2008 cross-border raid.

Aruban authorities acted on a US arrest warrant and detained Carvajal on Wednesday, July 23 at the Queen Beatrix International Airport in Oranjestad.

“We have no doubt that this was an ambush, a terrible ambush,” the Venezuelan president said on Sunday before the ruling Socialist Party congress.

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“They have trampled over his diplomatic status," Calixto Ortega, Venezuela’s vice-chancellor for Europe, told VICE News, adding that Carvajal's detention “was a running-over of the Vienna Convention.”

During a press briefing on Monday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that his release came “on the basis of claims of immunity that are beyond established international norms.”

Carvajal was traveling on a diplomatic passport at the time of his arrest on entry to Aruba. However, according to the Netherlands' protocol for diplomatic posts, he did not have diplomatic immunity, as he had not yet delivered his credentials to the Aruban authorities in order to be officially recognized as consul.

'This is not the way law enforcement matters should be handled, and we will certainly continue our efforts to bring him to justice.'

The US State Department is not pleased, and claims the island's decision to release Carvajal from custody was not a matter of protocol.

We are also disturbed by credible reports that have come to us indicating the Venezuelan Government threatened the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands, and others to obtain this result,” Psaki said. “This is not the way law enforcement matters should be handled, and we will certainly continue our efforts to bring him to justice.”

Ortega explained that the government managed to achieve Carvajal’s liberation by pursing "political, diplomatic, and judicial routes," but failed to give specifics.

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On Sunday, Venezuelan minister of foreign affairs Elías Jaua said that Netherlands' authorities had named Carvajal a persona non grata across all territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: the Netherlands itself, the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), and Sint Maarten.

Dutch authorities have stated that if Carvajal returns to any of the territories he will be arrested.

Follow Alicia Hernández on Twitter: @por_puesto

united states
War on Drugs
crime & drugs
Nicolas Maduro
narco terrorism
Hugo Carvajal
Raul Reyes
jen psaki