New evidence suggests that late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez allied with the FARC to “flood” the United States with cocaine, potentially explaining his expulsion of the DEA from the country.
The plan was presented to Chávez’s senior intelligence officials in 2005, according to US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) files seen by El Mundo. Its alleged aim was to combat the United States with an onslaught of illegal drugs, trafficked through Venezuela with the collaboration of security forces. The cocaine was sourced from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia – FARC) in exchange for weapons.
Former intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal, who defected earlier this year and has made key revelations about the Venezuelan government, was allegedly responsible for coordinating the operations. Officials who maintain senior roles in the current administration of Nicolás Maduro were also present at the 2005 meeting, according to the DEA file. These include Diosdado Cabello, current president of the National Constituent Assembly, Tareck El Aissami, now Minister for Industry, and Henry de Jesús Rangel Silva, current governor of Trujillo.
All have previously been identified as key players in the Cartel of the Suns, a drug trafficking network that continues to operate within the Venezuelan state.
The DEA document compiles evidence from witnesses who worked within the Chávez administration, including a former judge who claims to have attended the 2005 meeting. It was presented as part of the US extradition request for Carvajal, who was arrested in Madrid in April 2019. The request was refused.
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The DEA file not only provides a possible explanation for the origins of the Cartel of the Suns, but could also shed light on the timing of Chávez’s expulsion of the DEA from Venezuela.
Chávez ended cooperation with the DEA in 2005, the same year in which the alleged meeting where he ordered the US to be “flooded” with cocaine took place. If confirmed, the DEA evidence would suggest that his intention was to remove investigations which could expose this drug trafficking network he was controlling from Venezuela.
At the time, Chávez justified the decision on the claim that “the DEA was using the fight against drug trafficking as a mask, to support drug trafficking, to carry out intelligence in Venezuela against the government.”
Although the move was in keeping with Chávez’s position against what he saw as US imperialism, the specific reasons behind the expelling of the DEA were never made clear.
The DEA’s expulsion marked a watershed for Venezuela’s role in global drug trafficking. International seizures of drugs that had transited Venezuela tripled in 2006, according to US authorities.
This claim is supported by the United Nations’ annual World Drug Report. Whereas the 2004 report makes passing references to Venezuela as one of many cocaine transit countries, the 2010 report details how Venezuela had boomed to become a primary transshipment hub.
However, the 2010 UN report also considers Europe to have been the primary destination for cocaine moved through Venezuela. This contrasts with the DEA’s claim that the purpose of the Chávez-FARC alliance was to channel cocaine into the US.
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