Sunday, July 27, 2014

US/Venezuela/The Netherlands: Update--Retired Adviser to Hugo Chávez Released, Deported

According to ABC News and The Miami Herald, Aruba's government released a former Venezuelan general who was detained on US drug charges when he arrived to serve as his country's consul on the Dutch Caribbean island, sending him home on Sunday night (July 27) and defusing a diplomatic rife. 

Aruban authorities had argued previously that Hugo Carvajal, a former Venezuelan military intelligence chief, didn't have immunity from arrest because he had yet to be accredited by the Netherlands, which manages the foreign affairs of its former colony that sits off the coast of Venezuela.

Yet, at a hastily scheduled news conference in Aruba's capital of Oranjestad, the island's justice minister Arthur Dowers said Carvajal was being released on the basis that Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans confirmed that Carvajal did have diplomatic immunity, but also declared Carvajal persona non-grata and deported him back to Caracas.

Subsequently, Venezuela's government announced that Carvajal had been released and was returning to Caracas with Deputy Foreign Minister Calixto Ortega. 

COMMENT: According to THE MIAMI HERALD link below, and based on Washington's assertion that the arrest was valid, Aruba had no other choice but to detain Carvajal: 

Arthur Dowers and Chief Prosecutor Peter Blanken said the decision to detain Carvajal on Wednesday (July 23) was based on the fact that he arrived using a diplomatic passport, but had no confirmed accreditation to serve as a diplomat on the island. They said officials decided to comply with the detention request from Washington based on an international treaty between the US and the Netherlands.

Yet, based upon confirming that Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans had verified that Carvajal was an accredited diplomat in Aruba, he had to honor his status and release him. 

He said US officials were "very disappointed" with the decision to free Carvajal, who was the highest-ranking Venezuelan official ever detained on a US warrant...NEARLY.

Unfortunately, it is regretful that Washington didn't verify Gen. Carvajal's diplomatic immunity before the fact, as they clearly had the resources to do so.

At a time when the Obama Administration needs every foreign ally it can muster, it hardly needs to create embarrassing disconnects with critical allies.

Carvajal served for five years until 2009 as the late President Hugo Chávez's head of military intelligence. 

The Carvajal and Chávez met in the early 1980s at the military academy in Caracas and later took up arms together in a failed 1992 coup that catapulted Chávez to fame and set the stage for his eventual rise to power.

In 2008, Carvajal was one of three senior Venezuelan military officers blacklisted by the US Treasury for allegedly providing weapons and safe haven to Marxist rebels in neighboring Colombia. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is classified a terrorist organization by the US State Department. 

US prosecutors have indicted most of the FARC's top leadership, including senior commanders with whom Carvajal purportedly conspired, on charges of smuggling large amounts of cocaine.

Carvajal has denied any wrongdoing on those counts as well as charges unsealed this week in southern Florida that he was an associate of Wilber Varela, a major Colombian drug trafficker who was murdered in Venezuela in 2008.

President Maduro condemned Carvajal's arrest as a "kidnapping" orchestrated by the US, while Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Sunday that the former general's only crime "is having defended the life of the late Hugo Chávez during 15 years."