Aruba Says Venezuela Raised Military Pressure on It
By Kejal Vyas and José de Córdoba July 28, 2014 WALL STREET JOURNAL
CARACAS—The Netherlands’ release of a former top Venezuelan official wanted by the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking came after Venezuela raised economic and military pressure on two Dutch islands in the Caribbean, a top Aruban official said Monday.
Aruba’s chief prosecutor Peter Blanken said that Venezuelan navy ships neared Aruba and Curaçao over the weekend as Dutch officials were debating what to do with Hugo Carvajal —Venezuela’s former chief of military intelligence who was jailed in Aruba last week on a U.S. warrant.
“The threat was there,” Mr. Blanken said. “We don’t know what their intentions were, but I think a lot of people in Aruba were scared that something would happen.”
Mr. Blanken said Venezuela’s government also had threatened to sever Venezuela’s vital commercial air links to Aruba and Curaçao. Venezuela’s state oil company also threatened to withdraw from a contract to manage Curaçao’s refinery, Mr. Blanken said, which would have put at risk some 8,000 jobs.
Aruban officials on Wednesday detained Mr. Carvajal, known as “el Pollo,” or “the Chicken,” but then released him on Sunday night after the Dutch government ruled that he was protected by diplomatic immunity. The decision overruled Aruban officials who had decided that the Venezuelan had no immunity because he hadn’t been confirmed as consul by the Dutch government.
Much to the dismay of U.S. officials, Mr. Carvajal flew to Caracas on Sunday night to a hero’s welcome from President Nicolás Maduro.
Annemijn van den Broek, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry, said the decision to release Mr. Carvajal was made solely on legal grounds. She confirmed Venezuelan ships had come close to the islands, but said the Dutch Ministry of Defense had been told by the Venezuelans that the ships were returning from a naval exercise.
“I understand that the people on the island had a sense of urgency, but we have confirmation that this had nothing to do with the case,” she said.
Ms. Van den Broek declined to comment on any threats of economic sanctions by Venezuela, but said the Venezuelan government made it clear they “were not amused by the situation.”
A Venezuelan Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment. Mr. Maduro on Sunday night said that his government was “ready to do whatever it took” to get Mr. Carvajal freed.
Feature continues here: Dutch Release VE Spy Chief