The United States government linked two prominent FARC dissidents to confusing “narco-terrorism” charges against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) provided no evidence of the claims of the FARC dissidents’ alleged “narco-terrorism” conspiracy with the so-called “Cartel of the Suns” from Venezuela.
The term “Cartel of the Suns” (Cartel de los Soles) is used to describe shadowy groups inside Venezuela’s military that traffic cocaine. It is in some ways a misleading term, as it creates the impression that there is a hierarchical group, made up primarily of military officials, that sets the price of cocaine inside the country.
Organized crime website Insight Crime
Conveniently, no FARC member who is taking part in Colombia’s peace process were accused, despite indications they were in charge of the former guerrillas’ drug trafficking activities.
Indictment riddles with false claims
Barr falsely claimed that Marquez and Santrich are leaders of the FARC, the demobilized guerrilla group that expelled the two former commanders after they abandoned Colombia’s ongoing peace process last year.
Additionally, the indictment claimed the two former FARC leaders are members of the former guerrillas’ Secretariat, which ceased to exist in 2017 when the FARC became a political party.
Marin Arango and Hernandez Solarte are leaders of the FARC. Beginning in approximately 1999, while the FARC was purporting to negotiate toward peace with the Colombian government, FARC leaders agreed with leaders of the Cartel de Los Soles to relocate some of the FARC’s operations to Venezuela under the protection of the Cartel. Thereafter, the FARC and the Cartel de Los Soles dispatched processed cocaine from Venezuela to the United States via transshipment points in the Caribbean and Central America, such as Honduras.
United States Department of Justice
Barr contradicts previous DEA and DOJ claims
The indictment against the Venezuelan president and the FARC dissidents appears to be based on a leaked 2019 DEA report claiming that Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez ordered Carvajal in 2005 to “combat the US flooding them with cocaine” with the help of Colombian guerrillas.
Based on anonymous testimonies, the DEA accused subordinates of Carvajal, who was arrested in Spain in April last year and escaped half a year later, of meeting with Marquez.
According to the former Venezuelan official’s lawyers, the 2019 criminal charges were part of a political persecution in order to get them to cooperate in fabricating claims against Venezuela’s president.
Neither Maduro or Santrich were ever mentioned in press reports on this leaked DEA report, and appeared to have been added to Barr’s conspiracy theory afterwards.
Furthermore, the US Attorney General’s conspiracy theory contradicts 2013 claims by the DOJ that Carvajal was working with the Norte del Valle Cartel, whose offspring, “Los Rastrojos,” colluded with Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Serving justice or more amateur political warfare?
The US Attorney General also claimed Venezuela’s authoritarian president and other top officials from Venezuela “acted as leaders and managers” of the “Cartel of the Suns” before Maduro held any government position.
The indictment of Marquez followed unsubstantiated drug trafficking claims against Santrich that plunged Colombia’s peace process in crisis.
Like the indictment against Santrich, also this one was partially prepared by controversial US Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York, a former business associate of President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudi Guliani.
The incoherent claims and lack of evidence indicate the indictment is Trump’s latest attempt to use the United States’ justice system to increase political pressure on Maduro to leave office after an embarrassing series of failed attempts to topple Venezuela’s authoritarian leader.