U.S. officials are saying Venezuela may have used threats to obtain the freedom of a former general detained in Aruba at the request of the American government.
In a statement released Monday morning, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says there are credible reports that Venezuela threatened the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands and others to force the release of former military intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal.
Carvajal was arrested when he arrived to serve as Venezuela’s consul on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. On Sunday, the Netherlands ruled that he was protected by diplomatic immunity.
At a hastily called news conference in Aruba’s capital, the island’s justice minister said Carvajal was being let go because Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans decided Carvajal did have immunity, but also declared him “persona non grata” — a term used by governments to remove foreign diplomats.
“The fact is that Mr. Carvajal was granted diplomatic immunity, but he is also considered persona non grata,” Arthur Dowers told reporters at the news conference in Oranjestad that was streamed live on the Internet.
Carvajal returned to Caracas Sunday night and received a hero’s welcome at the convention of the national socialist party. President Nicolas Maduro invited him onstage and called his return a great satisfaction.
Additional reporting by Joshua Goodman, Associated Press