The U.S. State Department, even under such a venal executive as is currently in power, still manages to put out some very decent briefs, like this paper on Nicolás Maduro, released on April 15th, 2019. It’s an exceptionally detailed list of the crimes of what it calls “Venezuela’s former regime, led by Nicolas Maduro”. The list begins by saying that Maduro’s regime has “violated the human rights and dignity of its citizens, plundered the country’s natural resources, and driven a once prosperous nation into economic ruin with his authoritarian rule and socialist economic policies. Maduro’s thugs have engaged in extra-judicial killings and torture, taken political prisoners, and severely restricted freedom of speech, all in a brutal effort to retain power.”
Nothing too controversial there. In fact, aside from the loaded language of “thugs” and “cronies” when referring to associates of the regime (also accurate, from my point of view), the press release as a whole is an objective summary of recent Venezuelan history under the rule and misrule of Nicolás Maduro.
Nevertheless, the list of crimes and human rights violations are almost all publicly known and drawn from investigations of the National Assembly, PROVEA (the main human rights organization in Venezuela) and journalistic sources. The U.S. government is still holding its own cards close to its chest, likely because it’s involved in ongoing investigations of the regime.
Maduro’s thugs have engaged in extra-judicial killings and torture, taken political prisoners, and severely restricted freedom of speech, all in a brutal effort to retain power.
The recent arrest of Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal in Spain and his likely eventual extradition to the United States will certainly add to the cards the U.S. is holding now, especially given that he’s almost certainly going to cooperate with any investigation of the Maduro government, having recently flipped over to the opposition side.
Carvajal, the long-time Venezuelan director of military intelligence (2004-2011) under Hugo Chávez, has been under indictment in the U.S. for drug trafficking and for his ties with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The U.S. almost got its hands on him in the summer of 2014 when he passed through Aruba, but that country released him and he returned to Venezuela to great celebrations with Nicolás Maduro hailing him as a “hero”. He then went on to represent the PSUV in the National Assembly until this year.
My! How times, and people, change.
As weak as caretaker President Juan Guaidó may now appear, Nicolás Maduro and all his henchmen are looking even more vulnerable by the moment.
To his credit, perhaps, Carvajal took a great risk going over to the other side, given that Guaidó hasn’t been exactly warm and welcoming of him. In fact, Carvajal eventually went into retreat from the world, hiding out in a family house in Madrid from whence he tweeted his desire to cooperate with international authorities and give up the goods on his ex-comrades in the so-called Cartel de los Soles (the Suns Cartel). On March 14th he tweeted that “years ago I said I’d promised myself not to use my knowledge against anyone. Nevertheless, recently the information I have would help recover the Republic and democracy above any promise.”
The knowledge that Carvajal has is mind-boggling. He very likely has much damaging information on Number One (Nicolás Maduro), he most certainly has very damaging information on Numbers 2, 3, and so forth (Diosdado Cabello, Tareck El Aissami, etc.). In other words, as weak as caretaker President Juan Guaidó may appear at the moment, Nicolás Maduro and all his henchmen are looking even more vulnerable by the moment. Even if it doesn’t come out in a State Department press release, when El Pollo begins to squawk, you can bet the top ranks of chavismo will begin to tremble and fall.