Mexico City, Mexico, March 29, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Spanish judicial authorities suspended the extradition of Venezuela’s former intelligence chief Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal to the United States (US), where he faces drug trafficking charges.
Spain was due to extradite Carvajal last October after he was denied asylum in the country. The process was suspended due to a “material error” and was set to take place once the error was corrected.
In a statement, Spain’s National Court said it had agreed to once again suspend Carvajal’s extradition pending the outcome of his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The decision by the Spanish court is the latest episode in a long running escapade by Carvajal to avoid extradition to the US. Spain’s Supreme Court dismissed Carvajal’s request for a “precautionary measure” in September after it determined that his petition failed to demonstrate circumstances that would merit the request.
Carvajal’s legal team has openly admitted that their petitions to Spanish courts were unlikely to succeed and that they would turn to European courts instead.
In March 2020, the US Justice Department indicted Carvajal of conspiring to “flood the United States with cocaine.” He also faces charges of illegal weapon possession and faces up to a life sentence if convicted. Carvajal maintains that he will not face a fair trial in the US.
A longtime official under the Hugo Chávez governments, Carvajal publicly broke with President Nicolás Maduro in 2017 and subsequently aligned himself with self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó in 2019. The former lawmaker and army general became an outspoken critic of the Maduro government, which he describes as “betraying” the legacy of late President Hugo Chávez.
Carvajal fled Venezuela for Spain in February 2019 and was arrested by Spanish authorities for the first time in April 2019 based on the US extradition request. Carvajal was given a conditional release pending a decision on his status but went into hiding for years after Madrid greenlighted his extradition in 2020. He was recaptured on September 9, 2021 despite having undergone plastic surgery in an attempt to hide his identity.
The former intelligence chief claims to be in possession of “valuable information” allegedly incriminating the Maduro government. Carvajal likewise alleges he has evidence of illegal Venezuelan funding to Spain’s leftist PODEMOS party, which forms part of the government coalition. He is attempting to leverage this alleged information to secure asylum in Spain. Madrid has previously denied him asylum status but has not yet ruled on this second request.
Carvajal has similarly claimed to have proof that Caracas funded sympathetic politicians throughout Latin America, including Peru, Argentina, Honduras, Brazil, Paraguay and Colombia. Gustavo Petro, currently leading polls in Colombia’s presidential election, has denied the accusation and has asked the country’s Supreme Court of Justice to open an investigation. Carvajal is due to testify before the court in April.
Caraval’s delay tactics via the justice system are expected to eventually become exhausted. However, his extradition to the US is ultimately a political decision as the Spanish Ministry of the Interior must decide on his second asylum request and approve the extradition. The Spanish government has previously approved it and denied various appeals.
The former intelligence chief has previously claimed that his behavior is driven by concern of “political pressure” from US authorities on Spain’s courts. In the case of detained Venezuelan envoy Alex Saab, the US was found to have reached a political deal with the Republic of Cape Verde to facilitate his extradition.
Unlike Saab, the Venezuelan government has not come to the defense of Carvajal. Diosdado Cabello, lawmaker and a high-ranking Chavista, has washed his hands of any association with the former intelligence chief, telling reporters last year that Carvajal was an opposition supporter and no longer connected to the government.
Edited by Cira Pascual Marquina in Caracas.