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Spain court suspends extradition of Venezuela ex-intel chief

Published on October 22, 2021

Spain’s top criminal court on Friday suspended the extradition of Venezuela’s former intelligence chief to the United States where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.

General Hugo Armando Carvajal, who served as intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, was arrested in September in Madrid after nearly two years on the run.

The National Audience, the Spanish court in charge of extraditions, ruled on Wednesday that Carvajal should be sent to the US and indicated that his extradition would be imminent.

But in response to an appeal from Carvajal’s defence team, the court on Friday ordered the suspension of his extradition until an error in a previous court order regarding the case is corrected.

The court did not specify how long it could take to correct this error and for the extradition to take place.

Carvajal, 61, has long been sought by US Treasury officials who suspect him of providing support to drug trafficking by the FARC guerrilla group in Colombia.

Prosecutors in New York allege he used his high office to coordinate the smuggling of approximately 5,600 kilogrammes (12,345 pounds) of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006 that was destined for the US.

Known as “El Pollo”, or “The Chicken”, Carvajal is also suspected of potentially having incriminating evidence against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s successor and a major adversary of the US.

Carvajal has repeatedly denied having any links to drug traffickers or the FARC.

He was stripped of his rank by Maduro’s administration after coming out in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s acting president in February 2019.

Carvajal then left Venezuela for good and was first arrested in Spain in April 2019 but a court later that year ordered his release, arguing the US extradition request was “politically motivated”.

The court reversed that decision in November after accepting an appeal from the public prosecutor’s office, but Carvajal then went on the run.

When he was arrested again in Madrid last month, police said he had remained in Spain the whole time, changing residences frequently and getting plastic surgery to avoid being caught.