Back in May, we took a little stroll through a rogues’ gallery of Venezuelan bolifuncionarios. We covered quite a bit of territory, but we’ve felt guilty ever since for having omitted some pretty important names. This was unfair of us: the guys we overlooked are, after all, among the scummiest of chavistas, and are more than deserving of a nod of recognition.
Take Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, who last year was sent by President Nicolás Maduro to the Dutch island of Aruba to serve as Venezuelan consul general there. On July 22, he was arrested on a U.S. warrant.
Why the arrest? The previous year, Carvajal had been indicted in Florida on conspiracy to traffic cocaine. But this was only a relatively minor item on his long and colorful rap sheet. As head of DGIM, Venezuela’s military intelligence agency, under Chávez, Carvajal oversaw a broad range of atrocities. He took money for providing weapons, shelter, and logistical support to terrorists and drug traffickers belonging to FARC, the Colombian rebel group. He took money from another drug cartel that supplied most of America’s cocaine. He carried out “witch hunts” in the Venezuelan armed forces, torturing members of the military who were suspected of disloyalty to the regime. He ordered the torture and murder of a DEA informant. He ordered the torture and murder of a Colombian army captain and corporal who’d entered Venezuelan territory in search of FARC guerillas. Along with other top Chávez officials, he had his hand in several assassinations. The news website Infobae has called him “the symbol of chavista corruption.”
While Carvajal was at DGIM, Henry Rangel Silva, who is now governor of the state of Trujillo, was head of DISIP, the national intelligence agency, the two men collaborated with FARC and ELN on drug smuggling, extortion, and kidnapping operations. “Protecting drug trans-shipments,” stated one 2009 source,
is one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in which Carvajal and Rangel Silva are involved….Carvajal and Rangel Silva reportedly charge the FARC and other Colombian drug traffickers about $1,500 per kilo to protect drug shipments transiting through Venezuelan territory by land, air or water….in 2007 the roughly 189 metric tons of FARC-owned cocaine which transited through Venezuela represented potential profits of up to $283.5 million for the organized crime gangs run by Carvajal at DGIM and Rangel Silva at DISIP – assuming all of this cocaine received official protection, which is not necessarily the case.
As for kidnapping, hoods working for Carvajal and Rangel Silva provided “protection and surveillance services” for FARC and ELN, sold them “financial intelligence on potential abduction targets,” and in some cases took part personally in abductions and contract murders. Of the 537 reported kidnappings in Venezuela in 2008, the FARC and ELN were believed to be responsible for about 75%, for a potential profit of as much as $450 million.
Alas, Carvajal didn’t end up in an American court of justice. Under pressure from the Venezuelan government, he was released only six days after his arrest on grounds of diplomatic immunity. The Netherlands did, however, declare him persona non grata on Dutch territory, and flew him back to Venezuela.