When Hugo Armando Carvajal easily escaped arrest in Aruba – and possible extradition to the United States – with the diplomatic credentials of a Venezuelan consul in the process, he created a legend like the Houdini of Chavismo. With a bit of diplomatic skills, contacts and a door-opener passport, you could avoid obstacles at airports and also international sanctions. It was what some envisioned last year that would happen when businessman Alex Saab, identified as an alleged front man for Nicolás Maduro, was arrested at the Cape Verde airport. The escapist myth, however, has collapsed twice this week with the definitive authorization of Saab’s extradition to the United States and, this Thursday, with the arrest, for the second time, of Carvajal, Hugo Chávez’s henchman. , in the hands of the Spanish police.
In his resume, Carvajal has accumulated several leaks. In 2008, the ex-military man was one of the first to be included on the United States’ blacklist. At that time, the Treasury Department accused him of “protecting drug shipments from capture by the Venezuelan anti-narcotics authorities” and of “providing weapons and identification from the Venezuelan government to the FARC,” allowing them to maintain control of the department of Arauca. The sanctioned were counted on one hand, today there are more than a hundred Venezuelan officials. Carvajal, time and time again, has denied all the accusations about drug trafficking and relationship with the FARC, even after the appearance of his name among several exchanges of emails stored on the computer of former guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes, killed in Ecuador in 2008, the year in which it began to raise alarms in the United States.
Washington’s accusation had no consequences in his country. On the contrary, Carvajal consolidated his power as director of Military Intelligence, a position he reached in 2004, a difficult year for the stability of Chavismo. Recent was the shock of the 2002 coup that removed Chávez from power for two days, the oil strike that led to a raid in the industry to identify those loyal to the Bolivarian project and Chávez was facing the recall referendum. In these difficulties, and together with Chávez, between 2004 and 2011, he pushed the deformation of the Armed Forces into a Chavista army that today supports the regime.
During his time at the Military Academy, then Captain Chávez was Carvajal’s instructor. From that time comes his nickname “Pollo” and the roots of a friendship that led him to be part of the coup attempt on February 4, 1992, for which he was imprisoned in the San Carlos Barracks. But after keeping secrets from Chávez, assuming the post of intelligence chief again for eight months to support Maduro during the difficult succession after the death of the commander of the revolution, and being treated as a hero upon his return from the incident in Aruba with his red shirt and a fixed smile, if elected by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela as a deputy in 2015, Carvajal jumped off the Chavismo ship in 2019 as soon as Juan Guaidó challenged the government and proclaimed himself interim president.
Earlier he had shown some signs of discontent. He had been critical of the National Constituent Assembly that Maduro proposed as a counter-power to the opposition Parliament, but he claimed to remain part of the ruling party. The opinion of the then deputy for the Monagas state, power preserve of the number two of Chavismo, Diosdado Cabello, with whom he is also linked, had no retaliation. But because of that nexus they have also involved him with the supposed Cartel of the Suns, made up of the Venezuelan military. For the United States, Carvajal would be a key piece of information to obtain more support for the accusations of other Venezuelan officials.
The pass from Chavista to follower of Guaidó led him to attempt exile as one more persecuted of Maduro. As a reserved man of intelligence, after so many years of silence, he took advantage of the demarcation to dedicate himself to tweeting. He bragged on social media about the information he had. “I do not publish the list and location of Cuban agents in Venezuela to avoid a state of commotion,” he once wrote to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. “Of this gangster, corrupt, drug trafficker and terrorist, YES THERE IS EVIDENCE. Relationship with Hezbollah. Drug lord. Money stolen from PDVSA and CLAP with Samark (López) and others. You believed that by blaming others for your crimes you were going to save yourself. This took years, but it came, ”he wrote in profusion of capital letters when the United States brought charges against the also sanctioned Tareck El Aissami, current Minister of Oil and Energy. Then, in another tweet on April 9, 2019, he assured that Maduro would leave power by decision of the Armed Forces.
Three days after that message, he was arrested in Spain after receiving an arrest warrant from the US Shortly after, fate offered him a new escape ticket. In September of that year, the Spanish courts denied the surrender and released him, considering that the United States was requesting it “for political reasons”, given his status as the former head of the Venezuelan counterintelligence. At that time, Carvajal tried to negotiate with Spain his full freedom in exchange for the classified information he possesses. “With an eye on the reestablishment of democracy in Venezuela and with the full intention of contributing to the high national interests of what I consider to be my second homeland, Spain, I place my trust in the independent and professional Spanish judges, with whom I will collaborate without reservations, ”he insisted when he appeared before the National Court two years ago. In his social networks, he continued calling Maduro from mythomaniac dictator to santero. The victory did not last long, because in November it had to disappear again when the previous decision was revoked and the National Court approved, now, the extradition request for drug trafficking charges, ratified by the Council of Ministers of Spain in March 2020.
Since then Carvajal had been a fugitive, or in hiding as he has written on his networks. He was totally silent throughout 2020 and this year he had posted just two messages on his Twitter. One in May that accelerated the DEA hunt and put a price on its head: $ 10 million. The last trill of the 61-year-old ex-military did it a week ago. Following his style of communications, he reiterated his innocence in the face of the charges with which Washington points him out. “For more than a decade a great lie was fabricated with which the United States persecutes me,” he says at the end of the text. And it seems that he has found him again.
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