Updated 10:45 AM EST, Wed, Jan 19, 2022

Cartel of the Suns: Venezuela's Drug Gang and Its Ties to Arrested Ex-Military Officer

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The former director of Venezuela's military intelligence group was recently arrested in Aruba, and it was believed Hugo Carvajal was working with the Venezuelan drug trafficking group known as The Cartel of the Suns. 

"The term 'Cartel of the Suns' (Cartel de los Soles) is used to describe shadowy groups inside Venezuela's military that traffic cocaine," reports the website insightcrime.org.

"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. There are cells within the main branches of the military -- the army, navy, air force, and National Guard, from the lowest to the highest levels -- that essentially function as drug trafficking organizations," Insight Crime says. Giving the group the name "cartel" might be a bit of a stretch the site says. The inner-workings of the group is a mystery, and there's reports that infighting between group members has resulted in numerous deaths.

Cartel de los Soles, which translates to "Cartel of the Sun", was coined some time in the early 1990s after two Venezuelan National Guard generals (anti-drugs chief Ramon Guillen Davila and his successor Orlando Hernandez Villegas) were placed under investigation for trafficking in drugs and assorted crimes.

Each one of them, a brigade commander, carried a sun symbol insignia on their uniforms, which led to their now notorious clan name. Insight Crime also reports, "later on, when allegations emerged that division commanders -- given double suns in their ranking -- were involved in the drug trade, the term became the "Cartel of the Suns."

Caravajal was arrested late last month. He had been wanted in the U.S. since around 2008, according to the LA Times reports, which is when sanctions were brought against him. The U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control has accused him of assisting drug trafficking work by Colombia's FARC rebels.

Many believe that Caravajal is the leader of the Cartel of the Sun. It was originally thought that Caravajal would be taken to the U.S., but officials here have accused Venezuela of pressuring Aruba to return the leader to the Latin country, which they eventually did.

Just a few days later, U.S. officials were incensed that Caravajal was returned to Caracas, Venezuela's capitol, and given a heroes welcome. 

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