In September 2008 the US Treasury Department designated three senior Venezuelan officials known to be very close to President Hugo Chavez as “kingpins” for cooperating materially with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). These officials include:
*General Hugo Carvajal, director of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence division (DGIM);
*General Henry Rangel Silva, director of the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (DISIP); and
*Then-Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, who resigned for “personal reasons” just as the OFAC decision was about to be announced in Washington, DC.
Carvajal is still running DGIM almost 11 months after OFAC’s action. President Hugo Chavez replaced Rangel Silva last week with General Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who headed DISIP from 2002 until June 2005 when Chavez appointed Rangel Silva. However, while Rangel Silva no longer directs DISIP, he remains a very high-level player in the transnational crime groups which infest the Chavez regime. In fact, now that Rangel Silva is officially out of the public eye, he looms as a far more dangerous actor in the Bolivarian criminal underworld.
Colombian and US intelligence services have confirmed hat Carvajal and Rangel Silva run their own autonomous and independent criminal enterprises at DGIM and DISIP. Their respective organized crime gangs inside DGIM and DISIP are believed to number between 12 and 20 “made” members – rogues with government security credentials who can be trusted with very sensitive black ops like guarding drug trans-shipments, kidnapping someone or carrying out a contract murder.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva frequently do freelance security work for other senior kingpins of the Chavez regime like Diosdado Cabello, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, Jose Vicente Rangel, Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, Pedro Luis Martin, Pedro Torres Ciliberto, etc.
However, Carvajal and Rangel Silva also are believed to independently provide a wide range of criminal services to FARC and ELN militants, civilian drug traffickers and other professional criminals, according to Colombian and US intelligence sources. These services include protecting drug trans-shipments through Venezuelan territory, providing weapons and legal citizenship and residency documents to narco-terrorists and professional criminals, drug trafficking, extortion, abductions and contract killings.
These are among the alleged criminal activities which motivated OFAC to designate them as kingpins in September 2008.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva are always ready to engage in any criminal enterprise which guarantees them a large profit. Specific examples of major crimes in which Carvajal and Rangel Silva are believed to be directly implicated include:
*The car-bomb assassination of Danilo Anderson in November 2004. Jose Vicente Rangel is believed to be one of the primary intellectual authors of this contract killing, which was set up and executed by Rangel Silva’s gang at DISIP and pinned on the Guevara brothers.
*The abduction of Jorge Azpurua in April 2005. This abduction reportedly was commissioned by Fernandez Barrueco with the aim of forcing Banpro’s sale to his budding financial group.
*The assassination of Reporte Diario de la Economia’s business manager, Pierre Fould Gerges, in June 2008. Eligio Cedeno reportedly contracted the services of Rangel Silva’s “sicarios” while he was being held prisoner in DISIP headquarters. The intended target was Reporte’s publisher Tannous “Tony” Gerges, but the shooters killed Pierre Gerges in a tragic case of mistaken identity. However, Pierre’s assassination effectively silenced Reporte and destroyed Tony Gerges, who now lives in hiding and fearful that he will be assassinated at any moment.
*The abduction of German Garcia Velutini in February 2009.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva report directly to President Chavez, who holds both men in high regard. Chavez reportedly trusts them greatly because they always carry out his orders without question or delay.
Carvajal conducts permanent witch hunts looking for conspiracies inside the armed forces, and Rangel Silva runs intelligence and surveillance operations against the president’s top civilian supporters and enemies.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva also are good friends, though they graduated in different promotions of the Military Academy.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva cooperate frequently with Rodriguez Chacin on political and material issues relating to President Chavez’s strategic alliances with the FARC and ELN. But the three men are not close partners in crime.
Rodriguez Chacin is primarily a geopolitical operator whose chief interest appears to be working with the FARC to build regional networks of new armed guerrilla groups modeled on the FARC. These activities extend from Mexico to Argentina/Chile. The cooperation which Carvajal and Rangel Silva provide to Rodriguez Chacin with respect to the FARC and ELN is local, such as providing documents, security details, etc.
The drugs/weapons smuggling, extortion and kidnapping enterprises which Carvajal and Rangel Silva are running out of DGIM and DISIP appear to have been developed with the FARC, ELN and other crime groups independently of the political cooperation they provide to Rodriguez Chacin, Cabello and others in need of their black services.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva are known to be working directly with elements of the FARC’s 10th, 16th and 45th Fronts, which together have about 1,000 fighters deployed in Venezuela, mainly in Apure, Barinas, Tachira and Trujillo. Reports from those states indicate that Carvajal has particularly good ties with FARC elements (45th Front?) roaming the Tibu area.
The 10th Front is responsible for managing the FARC’s money laundering operations at Venezuelan state-owned and private financial institutions. From approximately 2003 until 1 March 2008 when FARC No. 2 chieftain Raul Reyes was killed in Ecuador by a Colombian air strike, the 10th Front was actively laundering millions of dollars through accounts with state-owned Banco Industrial de Venezuela (BIV).
The FARC severed its BIV laundering link immediately after Reyes was killed, and now reportedly launders its drug and kidnapping profits through some of the small banks owned by members of the new Bolibourgeoisie who are known to be close associates of senior figures in the Chavez regime like Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello.
The 10th Front also ships large volumes of cocaine through Venezuela. The 16th Front handles arms smuggling relations with the groups led by Carvajal and Rangel Silva. It also smuggles cocaine through Venezuela. And the 45th Front ships tons of cocaine through Venezuela under the official protection of DGIm and DISIP security teams deployed directly by Carvajal and/or Rangel Silva.
Protecting drug trans-shipments is one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in which Carvajal and Rangel Silva are involved. About 270 metric tons of cocaine was smuggled through Venezuela in 2007, mostly to the US and Europe. The volume dropped in 2008 to about 180 metric tons after FARC chieftain Raul Reyes and several other senior FARC leaders were killed during the first half of last year. The FARC’s losses disrupted drug shipments through Venezuela last year, but they’re recovering quickly so far in 2009.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva reportedly charge the FARC and other Colombian drug traffickers up to $1,500 per kilo to protect drug shipments transiting through Venezuelan territory by land, air or water. The FARC reportedly is responsible for about 70% of the cocaine moving through Venezuela at any time.
Based on these numbers, it can be inferred that in 2007 the roughly 189 metric tons of FARC-owned cocaine which transited through Venezuela represented potential profits of up to $283.5 million for the organized crime gangs run by Carvajal at DGIM and Rangel Silva at DISIP – assuming all of this cocaine received official protection, which is not necessarily the case.
And while 2008 was a “bad” year for the FARC’s cocaine trade through Venezuela, the potential maximum profits of the protection services provided by Carvajal and Rangel Silva were about $189 million.
Kidnapping is another lucrative sideline which Carvajal and Rangel Silva facilitate through their respective crime groups in DGIM and DISIP. The Chavez government is officially indifferent to abductions of hundreds of Venezuelans by FARC and ELN kidnap specialists, but FARC and ELN teams work with the crews of Carvajal and Rangel Silva in several ways.
For example, FARC and ELN gangs contract with Carvajal and Rangel Silva for DGIM and DISIP protection and surveillance services (they do the same with rogue elements in the National Guard and CICPC).
Also, the FARC and ELN purchase financial intelligence on potential abduction targets obtained from DISIP’s financial intelligence division and Seniat.
Members of the Carvajal and Rangel Silva crime groups, all elite members of the DGIM and DISIP, also are believed to participate directly with FARC and ELN kidnap specialists in abductions, and do contract murders.
In 2008 there were 537 reported kidnappings in Venezuela. The average ransom payment at the end of 2007 was between $300,000 and $500,000 per victim. Based on trends through June 2009, it is estimated there will be some 900 kidnappings in Venezuela this year.
The FARC and ELN are believed to be responsible for at least three-quarters of these abductions. At $500,000 per victim in 2009 (assuming some ransom inflation from 2007-2009), the potential profits to kidnapping gangs this year could be as high as $450 million.
Carvajal and Rangel Silva’s groups also participate directly in some kidnappings. For example, DGIM and DISIP commandos are believed to have participated in the groups which physically abducted Jorge Azpurua in 2005 and German Garcia Velutini in February 2009.