Venezuela Demands Release of General Snared in US Drug Case

Venezuela Demands Release of General Snared in US Drug Case

File Photo: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro stands outside the Miraflores Presidential Palace

Caracas: The Venezuelan government on Friday demanded the release of a former military intelligence chief who was arrested in Aruba at US request to face drug trafficking charges.

Retired major general Hugo Carvajal was arrested Wednesday night on the Dutch-owned island, where he had been designated but not confirmed as Venezuela's consul.

President Nicolas Maduro angrily denounced the arrest on Thursday as a "kidnapping," defending Carvajal as a "soldier of the fatherland and diplomat acting for the state of Venezuela."

"Let all know, as chief of state I will defend him with all the means and force of the Venezuelan state within the framework of international law."

A protege of the late president Hugo Chavez, Carvajal served as head of the Venezuelan Military Intelligence Directorate for five years from 2004, and briefly in 2013 under Maduro.

After Carvajal's arrest in Aruba, the US Justice Department on Thursday unsealed a May 16, 2013 indictment charging the general with protecting drug shipments on behalf of Colombian traffickers.

The US indictment alleges he was on the payroll of Wilber Varela, a leader of Colombia's North Valley cartel, and others from 2004 to 2010, a period when he was head of the Venezuelan Military Intelligence Directorate.

Varela, who had fled to Venezuela from Colombia and was murdered there in 2008, is alleged to have used the country as a base to ship thousands of kilograms of cocaine bound for the United States through Mexico and other countries.

Carvajal has been on a US Treasury blacklist since 2008 for alleged links to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, along with two other senior Venezuelan military officers who are now state governors.

Meanwhile in a case reportedly linked to Carvajal's, a former Venezuelan judge Benny Palmeri Bacchi, was arraigned on Thursday in Miami on charges of protecting Colombian drug traffickers.

A court source said Palmeri Bacchi entered a plea of not guilty.

The whereabouts of his co-defendant in the case, Rodolfo McTurk, a former Interpol director in Venezuela, are unknown.
More News