Hugo Carvajal, the Venezuelan Consul General to Aruba, returned to his home country yesterday after being illegally arrested on the island last week.
Carvajal, a former military intelligence chief, was arrested on 23rd July in the capital city of Oranjestad, following a request by the US Department of Justice. Carvajal is being investigated for alleged links with drug trafficking operations conducted by the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) in Venezuela. However, he was released yesterday after the Dutch state recognised that his arrest contravened international laws regarding diplomatic immunity, such as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.
Carvajal had been appointed Consul General earlier this year, though he was yet to receive formal approval by the Aruban government. According to Venezuela’s Supreme Court, the retired military official “began his consular functions on 7th February 2014, as per the notification made on 10th February 2014 by the General Consulate of Venezuela in Aruba to the Aruban Foreign Relations Department.”
On a note sent by the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Venezuelan government, it is stated that “As per article 13 of the consular agreement [the Vienna Convention], the head of a consular mission may be admitted provisionally to exercise their functions. In that case, the dispositions of the consular agreement apply. Based on this article, the Kingdom recognises that the dispositions of the consular agreement are applicable to Mr. Carvajal Barrios. This means that his detention on 23rd July was in violation of his [diplomatic] immunity, the Kingdom will see to his release.”
The note finishes saying: “The Kingdom informs the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that Mr. Carvajal Barrios must return to his country after his release.”
Carvajal flew back to Caracas accompanied by the Venezuelan deputy chancellor for Europe, Calixto Ortega, and was greeted at the Simón Bolívar airport by Foreign Affairs Minister Elías Jaua. Upon his return, he said: “I want to point my finger at two people: the judge that dealt with my case and the prosecutor are both corrupt. I suspect they received money to do what they did to me.”
Talking to Venezuelan TV station TeleSUR in Aruba, Ortega said that “the government of the Netherlands assumed the criterion of the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry in the sense that the Mayor General [Carvajal] is a diplomatic functionary; common sense prevailed and that’s the reason why he was released.” On the potential severity of the issue, he added that “tensions arise when the diplomatic status is not acknowledged: this would have set a very grave precedent with which we don’t know what could have happened.”
The US State Department issued a statement saying that the government “is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Dutch government” to release Carvajal “based on a supposed immunity that goes beyond the established international rules.”
The Island of Aruba is located in the Netherlands Antilles, some 27km north of the Venezuelan coast on the southern Caribbean Sea. It is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.