Monday, February 04, 2008

Feb 04/08 | On SEMANA's Expose of "Chávez's own Montesinos": War by ALL Other Means?

Courtesy of Semana Magazine
Original link in Spanish

PMBComment: For those who believe that war means tanks, planes and guns the current heightened tension between Colombia and Venezuela is not a war…at least for now. But history proves that war can be as deadly (i.e. effective) when waged in the economic arena or in the court of public opinion. It is now clear that Colombia has chosen to respond to Hugo Chávez's political antics, economic retaliation and military threats by releasing lethal information about Caracas's cozy relationship (i.e. partnership) with terrorists and drug traffickers.

The article below, which appeared in SEMANA magazine in Bogota over the weekend, describes, with lurid details, the activities of Venezuela’s head of Military Intelligence (an obvious oxymoron in today’s upended Bolivarian Armed Forces). General Hugo Carvajal Barrios, head of the DIM since 2004, is compared, at least in the title, with Vladimiro Lenin Montesinos of Peruvian infamy. They both shared a penchant for the illegal and had a soft spot for drug lords; but General Carvajal is no “mastermind” according to retired and active duty fellow officers that reacted to PMBComments’s earlier distribution of the Spanish version of this article. Carvajal is described as “mediocre” and “very, very low key”; “the guy graduated in 1981, 59th out of 73 in his class at the Military Academy”; as one who “would have never made the rank of General prior to Chávez”; as one who “was picked because he would do as commanded by the only person to whom he reported: Hugo Chávez”. So this is no rouge spymaster manipulating his way to absolute power, this is an instrument of a VERY troubled and dangerous man who is cornered and about to make THE mistake of his life.

War by ALL other means has begun between Venezuela and Colombia, and we will soon see the consequences of this historical madness. PMB


Chávez’s very own Montesinos

Colombian weekly magazine SEMANA reveals outrageous ties between Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal, narcotraffickers and the FARC.

People who have Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s ear can be counted on the fingers of one’s hands. And from that select group, one of the closest, most loyal and most trusted is General Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios: the brains behnd the Venezuelan intelligence apparatus. The matter would be of no greater importance for Colombia were it not for the fact starting a few years ago, and especially in 2007, General Carvajal’s name became sullied by extremely serious cases that constitute an assault against Colombia’s national security.

Two intelligence agencies from countries with vast experience in matters of espionage have what they consider to be highly reliable information that Carvajal has provided protection and identification documents for Colombian guerrillas and narcotraffickers on Venezuelan territory—including the recently assassinated narcoguerrilla boss Wilber Varela, known as ‘Jabón’, meaning ‘Soap’ (see following article). And if that were not enough, these agencies are targeting the general because of his alleged involvement in the torture and murder of two members of the Colombian Army who, according to information from Bogotá, were in hot pursuit of guerrillas who were using Venezuela as a safe haven.

Most paradoxical of all is that Hugo Carvajal is a man practically unknown in Colombia, despite the fact that he is head of Venezuela’s General Office of Military Intelligence—Dirección General de Inteligencia Militar—(DGIM), an organization of a military nature that has equal standing with the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry (Justice) and receives orders from, answers to, and is solely accountable to Hugo Chávez, President of the Republic. “These days the DGIM is a seven-headed monster that maintains a relatively low profile but its power is immense. It would be as if in Colombia there existed an organization under the command of a single man, which administered the Intelligence apparatus of the Military Forces, the Police, the DAS—Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (Colombian intelligence), and the CTI—Cuerpo Técnico de Investigaciones (attorney general’s investigative corps),” thus stated to SEMANA an official of Venezuela’s DGIM who requested anonymity.

Why is this being discovered now? What is going on behinds the scenes? SEMANA spoke with four active officers from different intelligence organizations and from Venezuela’s public force and they explained that the information began to leak out as General Carvajal, through irregular actions, proceeded to create hostility among sectors of the Venezuelan National Armed Force—Fuerza Armada Nacional (FAN) and other security organizations.

Witnesses state that aside from his relationship with the guerrilla forces, Carvajal has given great emphasis to counterintelligence and has committed excessive acts that range from unjustifiable witch hunts to going so far as to torture members of his own National Armed Forces simply on grounds of suspicion of disloyalty. Many of the rank and file within the Military Forces who are in disagreement with this situation have decided to file complaints or furnish information in exchange for rewards.

Therefore, it is not surprising that dailies such as El País in Spain and The Washington Post in the United States have published reports in recent months concerning ties between the Venezuelan military and guerrillas of the FARC. As early as October of 2005 SEMANA revealed that there were connections between two generals in the Venezuelan National Guard and the Colombian mafia, a revelation that led the Office of the Vice President of Venezuela to announce a formal investigation.

But none of the revelations surfacing up until now is as serious and worrisome as the information made available to this magazine concerning General Carvajal. SEMANA tried unsuccessfully to elicit a response from members of the DGIM in Caracas. This magazine also spoke with the chargé d’affaires at the Venezuelan Embassy in Bogotá trying to obtain some kind of official response from the Venezuelan government in answer to the denunciations, but as of the deadline for this edition this was not possible.

He spoke with “Grannobles”

Hugo Carvajal was born April 1, 1960 in Puerto La Cruz, in eastern Venezuela During the last eight years he has had ties with the General Office of Military Intelligence and in July of 2004 he was appointed by Chávez as director of that organization. Despite his tremendous power, he is a man who maintains a very low profile. Known by the nickname of ‘El Pollo’, meaning ‘Bantam Rooster’, because of his physical appearance, some of the activities in which he has been involved speak for themselves.

An active officer of the Venezuelan National Guard, who spoke with SEMANA under the condition that he remain anonymous, revealed that sometime in the middle of May of 2006 General Carvajal held a meeting with Germán Briceño Suárez, alias ‘Grannobles’, an important leader of the FARC and a brother of ‘Mono Jojoy’, meaning ‘Monkey Jojoy’. “The meeting was held at a farm called Corocito, located in San Silvestre, in the Venezuelan state of Barinas. Present at that place were personnel from the National Guard, the DISIP (Venezuelan intelligence services), and the DGIM (Venezuelan military intelligence). It was a group of about 20 persons, although there were more along the security perimeter assigned to the National Guard. Present from the guerrilla forces was Briceño (‘Grannobles’), accompanied by a small group of between five and seven irregular combatants. Afterwards two Venezuelan National Armed Force (FAN) helicopters arrived with another 21 guerrilla fighters,” thus affirmed the officer who says he had been present at the meeting.

According to him, General Carvajal and guerrilla fighter Briceño talked about strategies for political, military and economic coordination. Carvajal has agreed to furnish logistical support and food for the military fronts that are deployed along the border. “Briceño asked Carvajal for protection from the Venezuelan DISIP for a group of 21 guerrilla fighters who arrived on the helicopters, since they operate in different parts of Venezuela. He asked the general to furnish those persons with identification documents as well as credentials accrediting them as members of the DISIP or of the DGIM in order to be able to move about at ease within Venezuelan territory,” thus stated the officer to SEMANA.

One of the guerrilla fighters who enjoy these privileges is Yeison Armando Escobar, alias ‘Cocorinche’, a member of Frente 45 of the FARC. “In October of last year ‘Cocorinche’ was one of those assigned by the FARC to personally coordinate with General Carvajal matters of security and logistics for transporting Iván Márquez to the presidential palace of Miraflores for a meeting with President Chávez,” thus affirmed to SEMANA the Venezuelan National Guard officer, who furthermore states that this subversive person has DISIP and DGIM identification cards, as well as a permit to carry weapons.

Another one of the officers who made himself visible to SEMANA, a commissar from Venezuela’s Office of Intelligence and Prevention Services—Dirección de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevención (DISIP), or Political Police, added that this type of official documents was also given to Didier and Yesid Ríos. “They have been living on Margarita Island since October of 2007 and there they can rely on permanent security provided by members of the DGIM, assigned by General Carvajal.” Known in Colombia as the ‘Los Ríos Clan’, Didier and Yesid are part of a family who for years worked for the commander of the Frente 16 of the FARC, Tomás Medina Caracas, alias ‘Negro Acacio’, and in charge of shipping drugs and laundering assets.

Didier, Yesid and six other members of the clan escaped into Venezuela in 2001 after the offensive initiated by the Colombian Army against ‘Negro Acacio’ and which was known as Operation Black Cat. In November of 2005 the DAS (Colombian intelligence) and the Colombian Attorney General raided properties the ‘Los Ríos Clan’, administered for the FARC, and which had a value of 30 billion Colombian pesos.

This is not the first time General Carvajal’s name appears connected with providing protection and official Venezuelan intelligence organization credentials to guerrilla fighters and narcotraffickers. SEMANA had access to the identification cards that were issued to Hermágoras González, a Colombian narcotrafficker wanted on extradition charges by the United States and who several years ago found refuge in the Venezuelan state of Barinas and is involved in drug trafficking there.

The name of this Colombian narcotrafficker emerged into public light in October of last year in a Washington Post report where he appears as one of the biggest exporters of cocaine to North America and Europe. Hermágoras, who is a link to Colombian drug traffickers, among them the murder victim Varela, moves about freely in Venezuela with two official identification documents. One accredits him as a commissar of the DISIP and the other as an intelligence agent of the National Guard. A report prepared by the National Guard itself, to which this magazine had access, gives an account of the irregularity (see photos and facsimile). “The order to issue official documents to Hermágoras González as well as to other narcotraffickers and guerrilla fighters was given by General Carvajal to Pedro Luis Martín, who was director of intelligence at the DISIP and is now one of the general’s confidants,” so stated the DISIP officer who spoke with SEMANA.

To this evidence one can also add a recording in the hands of foreign agencies that reportedly demonstrates that General Carvajal tipped off narcotraffickers so that they were able to evade an important anti drug operation. “On September 5, 2007 an operation was to be carried out in order to seize 2,900 kilos of cocaine that was hidden in a warehouse in the city of Puerto La Cruz and was going to be exported to Europe. The drugs belonged to several Colombian narcotraffickers and a percentage of the shipment belonged to the Frente 10 of the FARC. There was an interception made of a call placed by General Carvajal to members of the Venezuelan National Guard and the DGIM, who were guarding the shipment, alerting them as to the imminent raid. The drugs were moved to a different location and the raid was thwarted,” so stated to SEMANA a member of a foreign intelligence service that was coordinating the operation.

An order for assassinations?

General Carvajal’s name has been linked to other even more complex matters. In July of last year, the general was tipped off by his trusted men at the DISIP about the effective collaboration being provided to the DEA by an informant by the surname of Rodríguez, whereby an important Venezuelan businessman close to the Caracas government would be compromised stemming from his ties with narcotraffickers. “In the United States there was already underway a judicial proceeding against this businessman that would allow prosecution of a network of narcotraffickers and money launderers that operates in Colombia and Venezuela Rodríguez was a key to the case. After being tipped off that he was collaborating with us, Carvajal issued the order to a group of men from the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation Corps—Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas (CICPC), who then kidnapped, tortured and murdered Rodríguez,” so reported to SEMANA an agent of the DEA assigned to Venezuela. According to him, the case is known to Colonel Néstor Reverol, head of the Venezuelan National Drug Enforcement Agency—Oficina Nacional Antidrogas (ONA).

Even though all the above mentioned acts reveal very serious actions by General Carvajal, perhaps the most serious evidence has to do with the role played by the head of the DGIM in the torture and murder of two members of the Colombian Army while they were on Venezuelan territory. In April of last year SEMANA revealed the story of the murder of Captain Camilo González and Corporal Gregorio Martínez. These military men infiltrated into Venezuelan territory in order to find Colombian guerrilla fighters operating in that country. But they were discovered and brutally tortured and murdered at the National Guard headquarters located in Santa Bárbara, in the Venezuelan state of Zulia. “The ones who discovered the Colombian military men and realized they were conducting an intelligence operation were officers from the Santa Bárbara Police. They captured them and took them to the headquarters of National Guard Air Support Detachment Number 1. From there the capture was reported to General Carvajal who then sent a colonel from the DGIM. He was the one who took charge of torturing the Colombians for several days. During some of the interrogations there was a guerrilla fighter present they tell us was from the ELN. After extracting all the information from them, the colonel called General Carvajal to find out what to do with them. Carvajal gave the order to execute them. He did that because he knew that, since they were involved in espionage activity, the Colombian government could not protest and, furthermore, it was a clear message to the Colombian military as to what awaited them should they be discovered over here (in Venezuela).” This sordid account was narrated to SEMANA by an officer of the Venezuelan National Guard who was performing his duties at the garrison where the military men were murdered.

The officer affirmed that the colonel who was put in charge of carrying out the tortures is a total confidant of General Carvajal. “He (the colonel) worked in the Venezuelan city of San Cristóbal in the year 2005 and there became a key DGIM contact with the Colombian guerrillas,” so states the National Guard officer. “He was always closer to the ELN than to the FARC, so much so that people from the ELN referred to him as ‘Comandante Raúl’.” Intelligence agencies are targeting General Carvajal the same way they once targeted Vladimir Montesinos: the man who focused all the power of the intelligence apparatus on Peru while at the same time he was selling weapons to the FARC. Without a doubt, the evidence against General Hugo Carvajal is of such gravity that the Venezuelan government will have to provide some clarification.