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Madrid (AFP) - Venezuela's former military intelligence chief has gone missing in Spain just days after a court approved a request for his extradition to the United States on drug trafficking charges, police said Wednesday.
"They are currently looking for him," said a spokeswoman for Spain's national police, referring to General Hugo Armando Carvajal.
Judicial sources said police had gone to his house in Madrid after Friday's court decision but could not find him.
In mid-September, Spain's National Court had rejected a US extradition request, instead ordering the release of Carvajal, who served as intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
His release followed five months in provisional detention after being arrested in Madrid in mid-April.
But the court reversed that decision on Friday after accepting an appeal from the public prosecutor's office, although full details of the ruling have not yet been made public.
Speaking to AFP, Carvajal's lawyer María Dolores de Arguelles said she had "not been informed" they were going to rearrest him, adding that she did not know his whereabouts.
She had also not received the full transcript of Friday's decision, which court sources said would be released in the coming days.
Known as "El Pollo" (the Chicken), Carvajal was stripped of his rank by the administration of President Nicolas Maduro after coming out in support of Juan Guaido as Venezuela's acting president in February.
He then fled by boat to the Dominican Republic before relocating to Spain.
Carvajal has long been sought by US Treasury officials who suspect him of providing support to drug trafficking by the FARC guerrilla group in Colombia.
In an indictment filed in New York in 2011, Carvajal was accused of coordinating the transport of more than 5.6 tonnes of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006 that was ultimately destined for the United States.
If convicted, Carvajal could face between 10 years and life in prison, the US Justice Department said in April following his arrest.
Carvajal has denied any "links to drug trafficking and the FARC", Spanish judicial sources said at the time.
A new anonymous whistleblower has accused the Trump administration of requiring U.S. asylum officers to enforce an illegal and immoral policy “clearly designed to further this administration's racist agenda of keeping Hispanic and Latino populations from entering the United States.”
The policy in question is the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, the controversial program requiring that most asylum seekers who attempt to request protections in the United States via the southern border be returned to Mexico to await their immigration proceedings there rather than inside the U.S.
Under the MPP, which was first announced at the end of last year, more than 50,000 migrants have been sent to dangerous Mexican border towns to await asylum proceedings in the U.S. — most of which are being carried out in tent courts on the U.S. side of the border, to which both attorneys and the press have reported being denied access. Besides due process concerns, immigration attorneys and advocates say the program places migrants in dangerous and inhumane conditions, with many migrants in the program reporting that they’ve been subjected to kidnappings, rape and other violent crimes south of the border. Many others simply disappear and fail to show up for hearings.
The whistleblower is an asylum officer who recently resigned from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees the legal immigration system, including asylum. In an email written in August to USCIS management, the asylum officer provided a detailed explanation of why he or she refused to participate further in the MPP, starting with the assertion that “the program violates U.S. immigration law.”
The Refugee Act of 1980 provides that anyone physically present in the United States, even if they entered without papers and regardless of their immigration status, can request asylum.
The email, which was first published Tuesday by the Washington Post, was provided to Yahoo News by the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). It will be part of a comprehensive report on the Trump administration’s asylum policies that Merkley’s office plans to release this week.
The email argues that the administration policy, besides flouting federal immigration law, also violates U.S. obligations under international law, including the agreement [under] the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees “to not discriminate against refugees on the basis of their race, religion, or nationality, and to not penalize refugees for their undocumented entry into the country.”
“However, the MPP both discriminates and penalizes,” the asylum officer writes, describing the program’s implementation as “arbitrary” and designed to punish migrants — particularly those from certain Central American countries — who attempt to seek asylum at the southern border.
“Participating in such a clearly biased system further violates our oath of office,” the whistleblower writes, concluding that even aside from questions of legality, the “process is still morally objectionable.” Officers who enforce it “would still be complicit in returning individuals to an unsafe and unreasonable situation.”
In an email to Yahoo News, a USCIS spokesperson defended the MPP as “a lawful use of authority” and insisted that migrants will not be returned to Mexico if they can prove that they are “more likely than not” to be persecuted or tortured south of the border.
“If at any time during the process an alien asserts a fear of return to Mexico, USCIS will interview that individual,” said the spokesperson. “If they meet the standard set forth in the guidance, they will not be returned to Mexico to await their next hearing.”
However, the guidance for implementing MPP does not require that migrants be asked whether they fear persecution in Mexico before they are placed in the program, only that they be referred to a USCIS officer to assess the legitimacy of their fears if the migrants themselves bring it up. Lawyers argue that, in practice, this process results in migrants regularly being sent back to dangerous situations in Mexico despite making their fears known. Taylor Levy, an El Paso, Texas, immigration attorney who works with migrants returned to Juárez under MPP, told the Texas Observer in September that, in the past six months, she hadn’t met any migrants who received an assessment after expressing a fear of returning to Mexico when they first turned themselves over to U.S. border officials.
Last week, the ACLU of San Diego filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security arguing that migrants who express a fear of returning to Mexico are being wrongly denied access to legal counsel before the crucial interview with USCIS where they must make the case against remaining in the MPP. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered the government to allow the plaintiffs in that case, a Guatemalan family who say they were assaulted and forced to take off their clothes at gunpoint by men in government uniforms while traveling through Mexico, to meet with their attorney before the interview to determine whether they should return to Mexico.
The MPP is the subject of multiple legal challenges by immigrant-rights groups. In April, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking implementation of the program, but it was overturned a month later by three federal judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, allowing the administration to continue carrying out the policy at the border while its legal merits are debated in the courts. The asylum officer noted that “assurances by the Mexican government that persons returned to Mexico under the MPP would receive work permits and protection were a key reason that the injunction was stayed. ... However, the Mexican government has not fulfilled its promise of providing work permits and protection.”
In an unusual move this summer, the union representing federal asylum officers filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit that called the MPP "fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our Nation," and articulated many of the same objections outlined in the whistleblower’s email.
At the beginning of the email to USCIS management, the asylum-officer whistleblower writes that he or she decided to memorialize their objections to the MPP in writing after “various meetings with Supervisory Asylum Officers last Thursday, August 8, 2019, and possible continued disciplinary action.” It’s unclear what kind of disciplinary action the officer may have received as a result of earlier attempts to challenge the MPP.
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Less than three months ago, Nikki Haley, President Trump’s first U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, shut down speculation that she was seeking to replace Vice President Mike Pence on the Republican 2020 ticket.
“Enough of the false rumors,” Haley tweeted on Aug. 21. “Vice President Pence has been a dear friend of mine for years. He has been a loyal and trustworthy VP to the President. He has my complete support.”
But the speculation has resumed during Haley’s promotional tour for her new book, which some observers believe is doubling as an audition for the role of Trump’s running mate.
Haley’s book, “With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace,” which was released Tuesday, is respectful toward Trump and dismissive of some of his Cabinet members, including former White House chief of staff John Kelly and ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who she says tried to recruit her to “save the country” by undermining Trump.
“Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley writes. “We are doing the best we can do to save the country, they said. We need you to work with us and help us do it.”
Both Kelly and Tillerson denied they were trying to undermine Trump. (Kelly told the Washington Post that if providing the president “with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice ... is ‘working against Trump,’ then guilty as charged.”)
Haley says she refused to go along with the idea.
“Go tell the president what your differences are, and quit if you don’t like what he’s doing,” Haley told CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell. “But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing.”
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, the former South Carolina governor said she told Trump about Kelly and Tillerson’s backdoor approach.
In the same interview, she defended Trump’s requests for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals in exchange for military aid — the basis of the House Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.
While she refused to say whether she agreed with Trump that his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” Haley echoed a White House talking point that there was no pressure put on Zelensky.
“I think it’s never a good practice for us to ask a foreign country to investigate an American,” she said. “Having said that, there’s no insistence on that call. There are no demands on that call. It is a conversation between two presidents that’s casual in nature.”
Haley was also asked if she believes Trump — who the Washington Post estimates has made more than 13,000 false or misleading claims as president — is truthful.
“Yes, in every instance that I dealt with him, he was truthful,” she said.
For those speculating about Pence’s future, Haley’s overtly pro-Trump PR tour has not gone unnoticed. The president’s change of his official residence from New York to Florida last month also removes the constitutional obstacle to running with Haley, who now lives in New York. The 12th Amendment creates a procedural difficulty for candidates for president and vice president who are residents of the same state.
“It’s about currying favor,” Steve Schmidt, a former GOP strategist, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “She wants to be vice president. She wants to be vice president on the Republican ticket in 2020. And I think there’s an overwhelming chance that Trump will dump Pence to put Nikki Haley on the ticket.
“[Trump] has an enormous problem with women, suburban women particularly,” Schmidt continued. “He’s entirely transactional. Loyalty is a one-way street. So she’s clearly angling for the job. And when you look at the politics of it, she would serve his immediate political interests in a way that Pence can’t. So I would suggest that he’s going to be gone and she’ll be in. And I think this book is about that.”
“Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough agreed.
“This was an audition,” he said. “She’s putting herself in position to be Mike Pence’s replacement if the president decides he needs to replace Mike Pence. ... That’s exactly what this book is all about.”
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