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U.S. 'disappointed' Netherlands released Venezuelan wanted over drugs

The United States is "deeply disappointed" the Netherlands released a former Venezuelan military intelligence chief detained over U.S. drug trafficking allegations, and is "disturbed" at reports indicating Caracas used threats to obtain his freedom, the State Department said on Monday.

Instead of being extradited to the United States, retired Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal flew home on Sunday from the Netherlands' Caribbean island of Aruba after the Dutch government ruled he had diplomatic immunity, despite a court decision that he did not. He had been arrested on Aruba on Wednesday.

"We made a legitimate request for Carvajal's arrest in conformity with our treaty which governs extraditions between the United States, the Netherlands, and Aruba," a State Department representative said in an emailed statement, saying Washington viewed Carvajal's claims of immunity as "beyond international norms."

Opposition politicians in Venezuela and the U.S. government say Carvajal, who ran military intelligence from 2004 to 2008, bears responsibility for years of state connivance in the illegal drug trade and aid to Colombian guerrillas.

Carvajal, who served under the late President Hugo Chavez, denies those charges.

The case had threatened a new flare-up in long-tense relations between Caracas and Washington, as well as potentially stirring up accusations of officially sanctioned drug trading by Venezuela.

The State Department said Washington would continue efforts to bring Carvajal to justice, blaming Caracas for his release.

"We are disturbed by credible reports that have come to us indicating the Venezuelan government threatened the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands, and others to obtain this result," the State Department said. "This is not the way law enforcement matters should be handled."

The statement did not elaborate on the source of the reports or provide further details.

[Source: Reuters, Washington, 28Jul14]

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