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Aruba holds suspect in US drug case over Venezuelan anger

AFP | Last Updated: Saturday, July 26, 2014 - 10:30

Caracas: An Aruban judge late Friday ruled that a Venezuelan ex-military intelligence chief arrested at US request on drug trafficking charges will remain in detention despite vehement protests from Caracas.

In apparent retaliation, Caracas cancelled flights to the tiny Dutch-speaking Caribbean island, an official with Venezuela`s Civil Aeronautics Institute told AFP.

Retired major general Hugo Carvajal was arrested late Wednesday in Aruba, where he had been designated but not confirmed as Venezuela`s consul. President Nicolas Maduro swiftly denounced the arrest as a "kidnapping." 

The judge ruled Friday that Carvajal`s arrest "is in accordance with the law," said Ann Angela, spokeswoman for the Aruban prosecutor`s office

"Now we must await the American extradition request," Angela told AFP in a phone interview. Washington has up to 60 days to file that request.

Calixto Ortega, a Venezuelan deputy foreign minister, slammed the move as a "political kidnapping" as he left a hearing seeking Carvajal`s release.
He told the TV network Telesur that the decision would result in Venezuelan "consequences."

Aruba, an autonomous state within the kingdom of the Netherlands, is located just 27 kilometers north of the Venezuelan coastline.

Venezuela`s Supreme Justice Tribunal blasted the judge`s decision as a "violation of international law."

In a statement, the Tribunal spoke of Venezuela`s "obligation" for the "just revindication of its sovereignty, because issues of security and national defense" are linked to the case.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 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.

First Published: Saturday, July 26, 2014 - 10:30

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