Just a couple of days after arresting Hugo Carvajal, a drug kingpin and terrorist organization supporter disguised as a high-ranking Venezuelan government official, Aruba and the Netherlands folded like Japanese origami after being pressured by Cuba's puppet dictatorship in Caracas, releasing the fugitive of U.S. justice.
Via the AP in Fox News:
Aruba releases former Venezuela general wanted by US on drug charges
BOGOTA, Colombia – Aruba's government released a former Venezuelan general who was detained on U.S. drug charges when he arrived to serve as his country's consul on the Dutch Caribbean island, sending him home Sunday night and defusing a diplomatic fight with its neighbor.
Aruban authorities had argued previously that Hugo Carvajal, a former military intelligence chief, didn't have immunity from arrest because he had yet to be accredited by the Netherlands, which manages the foreign affairs of its former colony that sits off the coast of Venezuela.
But at a hastily called news conference in Aruba's capital, the island's justice minister said Carvajal was being let go because Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans decided Carvajal did have immunity, but also declared him "persona non grata" -- a term used by governments to remove foreign diplomats.
"The fact is that Mr. Carvajal was granted diplomatic immunity, but he is also considered persona non grata," Arthur Dowers told reporters at the news conference in Oranjestad that was streamed live on the Internet.
Shortly afterward, Venezuela's government announced that Carvajal had been freed and flew to Caracas with Deputy Foreign Minister Calixto Ortega.
President Nicolas Maduro thanked the Netherlands for taking a courageous decision to resolve the situation, which he said arose from false charges against Carvajal.
Dowers and Chief Prosecutor Peter Blanken said the decision to detain Carvajal on Wednesday was based on the fact that he while he had arrived using a diplomatic passport, he had no accreditation to serve as a diplomat on the island. They said officials decided to comply with the detention request from Washington based on an international treaty between the U.S. and the Netherlands.
"But that information changed today based on what Minister Timmermans of the Netherlands said. And Aruba has to follow instructions," Dowers said.
He said U.S. officials were "very disappointed" with the decision to free Carvajal, who was the highest-ranking Venezuelan official ever detained on a U.S. warrant. His arrest could further damage Venezuela's already fractious relations with Washington.
Carvajal served for five years until 2009 as the late President Hugo Chavez's head of military intelligence. The two met in the early 1980s at the military academy in Caracas and later took up arms together in a failed 1992 coup that catapulted Chavez to fame and set the stage for his eventual rise to power.
In 2008, Carvajal was one of three senior Venezuelan military officers blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury for allegedly providing weapons and safe haven to Marxist rebels in neighboring Colombia.
Continue reading HERE.
By Juan Cristobal Nagel in Caracas Chronicles:
The Carvajal plot thickens
Venezuelan consuls can afford private plane rides to exotic locales.
The international press is going to town with this story. Three pieces stand out …
ABC’s Emili J. Blasco (the well-sourced Washington correspondent with the juicy details on Hugo Chávez’s illness) says sources in Washington confirm Carvajal was the “main figure” in the drug-running operation set up between the FARC, the Venezuelan military, and Hugo Chávez himself. In fact, Carvajal apparently came to Aruba in a private plane leased by an associate of Rafael Ramírez, a man named Roberto Rincón who lives in Texas, according to Alek Boyd and other sources. The money quote:
The general came to Aruba in a plane that belongs to an associate of Rafael Ramírez, president of the oil company. Besides, they point to the extraordinary information Carvajal can provide regarding the relationship of Chávez’s Venezuela with Hezbollah and Iran. “It’s like Pablo Escobar and Vladimiro Montesinos rolled into one, an intelligence chief who is also a druglord,” claim the sources.
Colombia’s Semana also mentions the Iran angle, but mostly they focus on Carvajal’s more-than-cozy relationship with the FARC. They claim Carvajal provided the FARC with war weaponry, pointing to an old case regarding a Swedish company, who sold equipment to Venezuela and it ended up in the hands of the FARC. This information was corroborated via the Reyes laptop (remember that?). The money quote:
The obvious question is how those weapons left Venezuela’s army headquarters and landed in the FARC camps. The answer was found in Raúl Reyes’ computers, found in his camp after he was killed in an army raid. In the computers, whose authenticity has been certified by Interpol, there is evidence that General Carvajal was the supplier of the weaponry.
Finally, legal analyst José Ignacio Hernández ponders for Prodavinci the question of whether or not Carvajal has diplomatic immunity. The bottom line: consuls have limited immunity, and the Vienna Convention really does not apply to this case. The money quote:
… immunity of jurisdiction is extended to all consular em
Finallployees, whose appointment does not require, as a rule, the acceptance of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It could have been that Carvajal had not been officially annointed consul, but he was a consular employee, in which case he could benefit from immunity according to article 43 of the Vienna Convention.
However, immunity of jurisdiction is not a carte blanche. This type of immunity only applies to “actions executed in the exercise of consular duties.” It does not seem as though Carvajal’s detention has anything to do with his consular duties.
Finally, Quico wrote about Carvajal’s mysterious disappearance two years ago. Remember this?
By Fernando Damaso in Translating Cuba:
A Hilarious Conclusion
An article by a young Cuban journalist was just published in the so-called youth newspaper under the arresting title “The Happiest Children in the World.” In it she recalls her childhood of aged, half-bald dolls previously belonging to her older sisters, toys given to her by a neighbor after he was too old to play with them, Soviet nesting dolls, daily blackouts, nights spent in darkness and many other shortages. In the end she comes to the conclusion that she “was born in this country, a place where children have everything they need to be the happiest in the world.”
I do not know if the author is trying to be slyly ironic or if she has been a practicing masochist since early childhood. She presents no evidence that would lead to such a conclusion. It could be that for her this is what constitutes happiness, but such generalization is a bad habit on which Cubans too often rely. Statements about having the best baseball, the best boxing, the best education, the best health care, the most courageous people and so forth are far removed from reality.
If this were true, then we would also have to accept that we are the happiest people in the world. This would be in spite of the fact that more than 80% of our homes are in disrepair, that many families live in inadequate and unsanitary housing, that streets and sidewalks are inaccessible, that neighborhood sewer lines are broken, that potable water is scarce, that public sanitation is notable by its absence, that the health and education systems are poor, that social indiscipline and violence are endemic, that salaries and pensions are at poverty levels, that prices for consumer goods are exorbitant, that public transportation is chaotic, that the economy is not growing, that every day the country moves further backwards, and on top of all this that we live without internet access or civil liberties.
One should be careful about what one writes and publishes as well as a little more responsible. Accepting misery and shortages as a normal way of life without working to change them does nothing to help eliminate them. It is one thing to repeat slogans but quite another to discard objectively in order to fill up pages. You don’t want too much of a good thing.
Garrincha in Martí Noticias:
"What did we do wrong?"
"Let's yell 'Free the Five' to see if he looks over here."
John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:
What Fidel Castro and the ANC don't want you to know about Cuba and South Africa
"Cuba is the sea of happiness. Towards there goes Venezuela. " - Hugo Chavez, March 8, 2000
Open Letter from the ANC to the Communist Party of Cuba
Voice of America is reporting that South Africa has launched a campaign against US sanctions on Cuba. Reasonable people can disagree on the wisdom of sanctions and also taking into account the South African government's close relations with Cuba the position is not at all surprising and should not be a shock. Nevertheless, the call to release the remaining Cuban spies serving sentences for past crimes in the United States should give one pause. The misnamed "Cuban Solidarity Campaign" seeks to support the Castro regime. Finally what raised concerns about the future of South African democracy is an "Open letter from the African National Congress (ANC) to the Communist Party of Cuba" written by Gwede Mantashe and published on July 25, 2014 that not only celebrates the Cuban Communist Party but its guiding hand in shaping South African democracy while also quoting Lenin:
"In our quest to strengthen and consolidate our democracy, we still rely on the PCC`s willingness and ability to hold our hand against all odds. The ANC will continue to work closely with your party collaborating in all aspects of development and peace. As Vladimir I Lenin stated, 'taking power is easy the challenge is keeping it.' Demands on our 20-year-old democracy are many and varied. The glaring inequality and abject poverty of the majority of South Africans did not come in 1994. This is the legacy of centuries of oppression and deprivation."
However, ideas have consequences as does the belief that "it can't happen here." For example in Venezuela, under a flawed democracy, many thought that Hugo Chavez would shake things up but that it was impossible for the country of Bolivar to follow the path of Cuba under the Castro brothers. Despite the claims of President Chavez that this was precisely where he wanted to take the country. Fourteen years later and with a heavy Cuban presence involved in the repression of Venezuelans and the rule of law obliterated; opinions have changed. Many Venezuelans are risking their lives and freedoms to restore the rule of law, basic freedoms, and ending the rising violence in society.
Continue reading HERE.
Via The Miami Herald:
Cuban immigrants share precious family heirlooms to show history of Cuban exiles
Julia Adán Pelegrín, 71, opened a black suitcase full of faded elegant shirts.
Those shirts, she explained, belonged to her father, Emilio Adán Silva, when he was a Supreme Court justice in Cuba, and they represented his life before he and 12 other justices signed a letter denouncing Fidel Castro’s government.
Eight years later, his family moved to Miami.
Those shirts, Pelegrín says, represent the sacrifice her father made for his family and express the pride she feels.
“These are not only memories but items of everyday use when Cuba existed as a nation,” Adán said. “[These shirts] were on the streets of Havana. They lived there.”
Such feelings of pride and nostalgia prevailed Saturday in the lobby of the Freedom Tower, when dozens of Cubans gathered to donate or lend objects of historic interest that document their exile experience.
More than 300 items — passports, documents, photos, clothes — will be part of an exhibit that will open at the tower in September.
The inauguration of the exhibit is a key step in the preservation of Cuban history, said Alina Interián, host of the event and executive director of Miami Dade College cultural affairs.
“We want to pay tribute to the people to whom this tower means so much,” said Interián, who also was processed at the Freedom Tower when she arrived from Cuba.
Between 1962 and 1974, Cuban refugees were processed at the tower, known as “The Refuge.” It was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008.
The exhibit, titled “The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom,” is a collaboration between Miami Dade College and the Miami Herald Media Company. Its objective is to document, preserve and share the history of the difficulties the exiled Cuban community went through since Fidel Castro’s rise to power.
Continue reading HERE.
It has been almost a week and no one except officials of Cuba's dictatorial regime know where imprisoned independent journalist and writer Angel Santiesteban is now being held or if he is even alive. Back in April of this year, Santiesteban was named one of the top 100 Information Heroes by Reporters Without Borders.
Repeated requests by family members to obtain information on his location have been rejected. Without notifying anyone in his family, the human rights activist and vocal opponent of the apartheid Castro regime was moved from Lawton prison on July 21st to an unknown facility.
Considering the Castro regime's half-century long penchant for disappearing and assassinating their opponents, concern for Santiesteban's safety is running high. With little to no protest from the international community, the Castro dictatorship has for decades been able to permanently rid itself of opposition leaders with complete impunity.
You can read more about Angel's disappearance on his official blog (in Spanish) HERE.
More coverage from Translating Cuba HERE and HERE.
Via The Devil's Excrement:
US Initiates A New Stage In Its Relations With Venezuela
One of the puzzles over the last decade, has been the timid attitude of the US Government towards corrupt Venezuelan officials, who roam around the US enjoying their ill-gotten gains. In fact, it is known that some of them, have turned evidence in exchange for being allowed to stay in the US or not prosecuted. Despite this, it just seems as if over the years, it was all an intelligence gathering operation with no follow up.
That may have changed this week.
After an effort was apparently rebuffed by the Obama administration to impose sanctions on Venezuelan Government officials, the US Government has clearly and quietly gone on the offensive this week.
First, it was former Judge Benni Palmeri Bacchi, who arrived in Miami in a private plane (like so many current and former Chavista officials like to fly) with his family to enjoy two weeks of supposedly a pre-paid vacation in Disney World, Orlando. Instead, Palmeri was charged with protecting Colombian drug traffickers by allowing them to fly cocaine shipments to the US.
But the big fish, not to say the big chicken, was General Hugo “Pollo” Carvajal, who was detained in Aruba when he arrived, also in a private plane, purportedly owned by a relative, and tried to use one of at least two, if not four Venezuelans passports he was carrying (As well as US$ 20,000 in cash, that he obtained via no official source in Venezuela). You see Carvajal was nominated to be the Venezuelan Consul in that Caribbean island, but the Government of The Netherlands had yet to approve it, making his diplomatic immunity non-existent. And adding to his problems the US started including Carvajal in its drugpin list in 2008, as you can read here.
And if Carvajal is ever extradited to the US, he is in serious trouble. While the news concentrates on his relations to drug groups, Carvajal was involved with drug/terrorist organization FARC and in the infamous Reyes computers Carvajal is said to have offered the FARC terrorist weapons, as well as lists of prominent Venezuelans to kidnap.
And if Carvajal is ever extradited, that is where his problems begin. Once he is in US soil, the charges could quickly shift from the drug angle to the terrorism one and Carvajal could be taken away from the DEA’s hand and Guantanamoed for the rest of his life. He could be jailed in a maximum security prison for more years than his life expectancy will allow.
And I say “if”, because many things could happen to Carvajal. Maduro has already say that he fully backs Carvajal, who was “kidnapped” by Aruba’s authorities, threatening the tiny island with economic, energetic and commercial sanctions.
Continue reading HERE.
By Eliecer Avila in 14yMedio via Translating Cuba:
The Scam and the New Man
Products filled by scammers (14ymedio)
I grew up listening to my teachers saying that our society was building the man of the future, a different one, one that would have no defects, no malice, none of the vices “inherited from capitalism.”
Those of us who over the years strived to bring ourselves closer to something that is a good New Man, today find we are aliens maladapted to this society. It seems we had a monkey painted on our faces and anyone could mock us. Things had reached the point that my father, relentless defender of the best values, today tells me that if I continue trusting in everyone I might end up dead.
Just a few months ago I was at the bus station when a gentleman approached to tell me he’d spent three days sleeping there, on the floor and eating other people’s leftovers, because he didn’t have the money to return to the east. He had spent all he possessed “taking care of my mother who is very old and in the hospital here in Havana.” His eyes were sad, his clothes dirty, and his voice trembled. That boy wasn’t even 30 yet.
With my hands trembling as well—because I’d brought just enough for the ticket, the necessary bribes and something to eat during the long and uncomfortable journey—I took out 50 pesos and gave it to him. If I hadn’t done it, my conscience would have punished me.
Knowing that this money wouldn’t be enough to cover his passage and the bribes to Holguin—where he told me he lived—I decided to intervene with the authorities in the hopes of persuading someone to be benevolent toward his situation.
At the risk of missing my bus, I went upstairs looking for a boss, knocking on several doors until they indicated that those problems were dealt with directly by the person in charge. On going downstairs, the man I was defending had fled.
Why would such a young, healthy, strong guy prefer to dedicate himself to scamming and not use the same intelligence to survive in a less dirty way?
Throughout the journey, more than 12 hours, I kept wondering, why would such a young, healthy, strong guy prefer to dedicate himself to scamming and not use the same intelligence to survive in a less dirty way? I have no doubt that this gentleman would shine in any theater audition.
Days later, two boys dressed in EJT (Youth Work Army) uniforms crossed my path, one of them obviously from Santiago, from his accent, and the other from Havana. They told me they were desperate to sell “some perks they’d handed out in the Unit,” as they needed money “for food,” and “you know how hungry you get there,” “shit man, help us out, you’re an easterner too,” pressuring me very strongly…
Already greatly annoyed by the desperate insistence of these two “gualdias” I did my calculations and figured that buying that package of personal toiletries would save me money over the terrible prices in the hard currency stores.
Continue reading Reports from Cuba: The Scam and the New Man
Santana in El Nuevo Herald:
"What you have to do is imagine the glass is full of milk... You undersand?"
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
Another Unsuccessful Negotiation for Alan Gross' Release
Not sure who's brilliant idea this was.
However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar and actor Sean Penn join the long list of dignitaries who have sought to -- unsuccessfully -- reason with the Castro regime for Alan Gross' release.
The list includes senior State Department officials; former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; Reverend Jesse Jackson; former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; numerous U.S. Senators, including Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ); and over a dozen House Members, including U.S. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and the Congressional Black Caucus.
As we've long argued, since American development worker Alan Gross was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime on December 3rd, 2009, the Obama Administration has sought diplomatic engagement and easing sanctions as means to secure his release.
(See "Cuba's American Hostage" in The Wall Street Journal).
Neither have been successful.
The one thing the Administration hasn't tried is tightening sanctions.
Squeeze the Castro regime's income and send an unequivocal message that taking Americans hostage is unacceptable.
Repercussions for Alan Gross' hostage taking are long-overdue.
As was revealed in a Bloomberg article today:
"On Wednesday, Elon Musk, founder of electric-car company Tesla Motors (TSLA), is on the phone recounting how the pair traveled [Musk and Pishevar] to Cuba last year with Sean Penn and ended up negotiating (unsuccessfully) with the Castro government for the release of an American imprisoned there."
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones celebrates his seventy-first birthday today. It’s a celebration for him. But for Cuban-Americans, they get “no satisfaction” when they think about the significance that this date has for them.
For Cuban-Americans, today is a sad day to remember. On July 26, 1953, a group of 135 rebels led by Fidel Castro led an attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. While the attack was a failure and most of the rebels received prison sentences averaging up to 15 years, July 26th is viewed as the date that culminated in putting Fidel Castro at the helm of the Cuban Government. And, it’s been fifty-five years of misery for Cubans and Cuban-Americans.
At his trial, Fidel gave his famous “History Will Absolve Me” speech. Based on his track record, we know now that history will not be kind to him and his brother Raul.
Red and black are the colors of the July 26th flag. Please, stay away from wearing anything bearing these colors today.
Following in the footsteps of his tyranny mentors Fidel and Raul Castro, Ecuador's dictator Rafael Correa wants to make sweeping changes in the country's monetary policy. By taking control of the banks and introducing dual currencies in the Ecuadorean economy, Correa hopes to further consolidate his corrupt grip on power while further impoverishing the people into submission. Just like his mentors did and continue to do in Cuba.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz has the report at Fausta's Blog:
Ecuador and the ‘straitjacket’
Many of you approaching retirement age may have read multiple public relations articles touting Ecuador as A Top Retire-Overseas Choice. Among the reasons listed,
– Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar meaning no exchange-rate risk for American retirees.
If that’s a reason for your relocation, don’t get packing yet: Rafael Correa has other plans,
Ecuador Weighs Escape From Dollar ‘Straitjacket’
Congress has until the end of today to vote on President Rafael Correa’s proposal to change the South American nation’s financial laws, which would allow payments in “electronic money.” Lawmakers are debating whether to insist the central bank back the new currency with a one-to-one dollar guarantee.As a current-account deficit drains dollars from the economy, making it harder for Correa to fund a burgeoning budget gap, a new currency could be used to meet government payments, said Jaime Carrera, a former deputy finance minister and director of the Quito-based Fiscal Policy Observatory. It could also lose its value quickly if not backed by the central bank, he said.
You may recall, seven years ago
Rafael Correa said Ecuador’s economy will remain dollarized during his four-year mandate
Of course that was before he changed the constitution to allow for his “indefinite re-election.”
Much water under the bridge and many debts later,
Correa, who calls the South American country’s use of the greenback an economic “straitjacket,” has already started paying some pension obligations in government bonds, which brokers are refusing to redeem at face value.
Additionally, Correa wants to issue electronic money without explicit public guarantees.
I can’t wait for him to turn bitcoin.
Too bad Putin didn’t include Correa in the upcoming BRICS bank.
Via The Miami Herald:
Feds charge former high-ranking Chavez aides with protecting drug traffickers
A former Venezuelan judge and his family flew into Miami International Airport with plans for a prepaid, two-week vacation at Disney World.
Benny Palmeri-Bacchi never made it to the Orlando theme park.
He was among three Venezuelans charged in federal drug-trafficking cases that for the first time link former high-ranking officials in the late President Hugo Chávez’s administration to Colombian cartel bosses, prosecutors said Thursday. The ex-officials are accused of accepting bribes in exchange for allowing traffickers to fly cocaine shipments from Venezuela to Mexico and the Caribbean for distribution in the United States.
On Thursday, Palmeri-Bacchi, 46, pleaded not guilty in Miami federal court to providing protection for a convicted Colombian drug trafficker who moved loads of cocaine from Venezuela to the United States.
The one-time judge, accused of impeding the trafficker’s extradition, is at the center of a long-secret criminal investigation targeting a former Venezuelan Interpol director, Rodolfo McTurk, as well as a former military intelligence chief, Hugo Carvajal Barrios, who was arrested in Aruba earlier this week.
Whether Carvajal, whose arrest was condemned by the Venezuelan government, ends up in federal court in Miami like Palmeri-Bacchi remains to be seen. He is Venezuela’s pending consul general to the Caribbean island.
In an indictment unsealed Thursday, Carvajal is accused of assisting Colombian kingpins such as the late Wilber Varela by allowing them to export their cocaine loads from Venezuela, protecting them from being captured, and providing them with information about Venezuelan military and police investigations. In return, Varela paid bribes to the former military intelligence director and other high-ranking military and law enforcement officials.
Carvajal and other unnamed Venezuelan officials are accused of investing in the cartels’ shipments to the United States, the indictment said. In particular, it alleges that Carvajal sold 100 kilos of cocaine to a member of Varela’s faction in the so-called North Valley cartel in Colombia.
Varela, who had moved his cocaine operation from Colombia to Venezuela in 2004 to avoid capture, was killed in 2008 — but the bribery racket between some of Chavez’s top military officials and the cartels continued through 2010, according to the indictment filed under seal in May 2013.
Carvajal is on the U.S. Treasury Department’s blacklist under the “foreign narcotics kingpin sanctions regulations.” He’s one of a handful of Venezuelan military officials on the list.
On Wednesday night, authorities in Aruba detained Carvajal, 54, on allegations of drug trafficking and aiding Colombian guerrillas. Carvajal was held at the request of U.S. authorities who have sought his extradition, the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald have learned.
Prosecutors are expecting Carvajal to fight his extradition to face drug conspiracy charges in Miami.
Continue reading HERE.