General Hugo Carvajal, a high-ranking retired military general and former chief of Venezuela’s military intelligence, was arrested in Aruba this week on charges of helping Colombian Marxist rebels smuggle cocaine into the United States. Carvaja is expected to be extradited to the United States.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Aruban officials arrested Carvajal at the island’s Queen Beatrix International Airport on his way to Venezuela, pursuant to a United States warrant against him for drug smuggling. Carvajal is charged with taking bribes from Colombia drug kingpins and guerrilla leaders in exchange for letting them work freely in Venezuela and use Venezuela as a launching pad for drugs heading to America. Carvajal, who had been extremely close to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, is expected to be extradited from Aruba to the United States to face trial. He had been nominated by the government of current President Nicolás Maduro for the position of general consul to Aruba, but the government of the Netherlands, which oversees Aruba, had yet to approve his designation.
Carvajal is the highest-ranking official in the Venezuelan government to be arrested at the behest of the United States government for shady ties to drug smugglers and the violent Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla. He is not the first, however; Benny Palmeri-Bacchi, a former Venezuelan judge, is facing trial in Miami on similar charges, and Rodolfo McTurk, the former head of Interpol in Venezuela, is facing charges of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine from Colombia to the United States. McTurk remains at large.
The depth of Carvajal’s ties to organized crime have yet to be fully exposed, but international journalists have connected him to a number of violent crimes. Latin American news sources have revealed that Carvajal is alleged to have helped smuggle “hundreds of kilos” into the United States with the aid of Wilber Varela, a drug kingpin known by his alias, “Jabón” (“Soap”). Most egregiously, Carvajal is implicated in the death of Adriana Urquiola, a pregnant sign language interpreter killed during this winter’s wave of pro-government violence in the country by a criminal who claimed ties to Carvajal, known as “El Pollo” (“The Chicken”).
For decades, the socialist government of Venezuela, particularly under the rule of Hugo Chávez, has had longstanding ties to organized crime and Marxist guerrillas. His ties to the FARC were all but public. Even in the post-Chávez era, however, his supporters staged a 50th anniversary celebration for the FARC, in which they told participants they were guaranteed the government would not interfere in the festivities. The Marxist terrorist group is currently sheltered in Havana, where the communist government gives them safe haven and refuses to extradite the terrorists to Colombia.
In a statement released by the Venezuelan chancellor’s office, the government of Venezuela has rejected the charges against Carvajal as “illegal and arbitrary.”