DIPLOMACY

Venezuelan diplomat held in Aruba on US drug charges freed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 9:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 12:35am
AP

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Aruba has released a former Venezuelan spy chief who was detained on US drug charges when he arrived to serve as his country's consul on the Dutch Caribbean island, sending him home.

A US State Department official said Washington had made a "legitimate request" for the arrest of retired major general Hugo Carvajal in line with its extradition treaty with Aruba and the Netherlands, and was "disturbed by credible reports" that the Venezuelan government had threatened both territories to win Carvajal's release.

"The United States is deeply disappointed at the decision of the government of the Netherlands to order the release of wanted narcotics trafficker Hugo Carvajal on the basis of claims of immunity that are beyond established international norms."

Aruban authorities had argued that Carvajal, the former military intelligence chief of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, did not have immunity from arrest because he had yet to be accredited by the Netherlands, which manages the foreign affairs of its former colony off the coast of Venezuela.

But on Sunday, Aruba's justice minister, Arthur Dowers, said that Carvajal was being let go because Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans had decided that he did in fact have immunity.

He also declared Carvajal "persona non grata" - a term used by governments to remove foreign diplomats.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the charges against Carvajal were false, and condemned his arrest as a "kidnapping" orchestrated by the US.