CARACAS: A Venezuelan ex-military intelligence chief arrested by Aruba at the United States’ request on drug trafficking charges was freed Sunday and returned home to Caracas, authorities said.
Retired major general Hugo Carvajal was detained late Wednesday on the southern Caribbean island, where he had been designated but not confirmed as Venezuela’s consul. “It is a very brave decision by Holland to acknowledge diplomatic immunity was violated, and for international law to be restored. It takes clarity, good will and bravery,” President Nicolas Maduro said on learning of his release. Aruba, just 27 kilometers (17 miles) north of the Venezuelan coast, is an autonomous part of the kingdom of the Netherlands. Carvajal was, however, declared persona non grata and would be arrested if he returns to Aruba, officials said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua had said he received a letter from the Netherlands saying Carvajal would be freed soon based on article 13 of the 1961 Vienna Convention, which applies to consular affairs. The article allows for the head of a consular office to enter a country provisionally to work while he or she is awaiting their official accreditation, Jaua added. Carvajal, who was nominated by Maduro in January, is awaiting the official approval of his appointment from the Netherlands. “Finally they decided to implement the 1961 Vienna convention,” Carvajal’s attorney, Chris Lejuez, told broadcaster Telearuba. “This situation is settled now. We are getting a fair outcome for Venezuela,” Venezuela’s deputy foreign minister Calixto Ortega told the same network.
Aruba prosecutor Peter Blanken told AFP that when Carvajal was questioned by a judge last week, Aruba authorities consulted the Dutch foreign ministry — which told them Carvajal did not have immunity. Now, Blanken said, the ministry reversed itself saying Carvajal indeed does have it. If Aruba had had the correct information Thursday, Carvajal would not have been held, according to Blanken. Asked why Carvajal was declared persona non grata, his attorney said the Netherlands had offered no explanation.
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