Monday, July 28, 2014


How the Cartel del Sol got its name
The furor in Venezuela, over the detention, and attempts to extradite, Major General Hugo Carvajal Barrios from Aruba to the United States, should be taken in the context of what appears to be a real increase in enforcement activity, against Venezuelan PEPs engaged in drug trafficking into the United States. Carvajal is believed to be one of the principals of the Cartel del Sol* drug trafficking organization, led by ranking Venezuelan military officers.

A second recent case** supports this theory. Caracas attorney Benny Palmeri-Bacchi, a former judge and prosecutor, has been arrested in the United States, and charged with:

(1) Money Laundering Conspiracy.
(2) Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine.
(3)Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice.
(4) Interference with lawful commerce through Extortion.

The defendant allegedly worked with a major Colombian drug trafficker to move Cocaine through Venezuela, and later worked to interfere with his extradition to the US. He is also charged with extorting money from an individual working in real estate.

His co-defendant is a senior Venezuelan police officer who is the former country representative to INTERPOL, the international law enforcement organization; this individual, Rodolfo McTurk, remains a fugitive.

Another hint about this increased activity, directed at Venezuelan narco-PEPs: prominent AUSA Richard Gregorie, who indicted Panamanian General Noriega, is involved in prosecuting the case. He has a long history of handling the most important cases brought by the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida.

Is the shape of things to come, regarding corrupt Venezuelan PEPs, who earn billions of dollars annually, facilitating the transit of Colombian cocaine through Venezuela, and on into the Continental United States ? We certainly hope so, for the US has previously contented itself with OFAC designations, and the arrest of only lower-level players. It needs to target, arrest, and convict, the leadership of these organizations, and the dirty PEPs who facilitate their operation.
* In English, Cartel of the Sun, because of the sun insignia, warn on the epaulets of general officers of the Venezuelan Army and National Guard.
** United States vs. Rodolfo McTurk et al, Case No.: 13-20930-CR-Ungaro (SD FL).  

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