After the Spanish High Court ruled on Wednesday, Oct. 20, that Venezuela’s former spy chief Hugo Carvajal should be extradited in the coming days to the United States, a last-minute order has put the move on hold.
Carvajal faces many drug trafficking charges, including collaboration with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) terrorist group. It is also presumed that he may have strong incriminating evidence against Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolás Maduro, a major adversary of the United States.
For this reason, the United States has a strong interest in extraditing the former Venezuelan spy leader to try him under U.S. law.
The Spanish high court’s ruling follows a decision by the Interior Ministry to deny Mr. Carvajal asylum. However, that process has not yet been completed as Mr. Carvajal could appeal; it was reported mid-week.
Precisely in response to an appeal by Carvajal’s defense team, the court on Friday ordered the suspension of his extradition until an error in an earlier court order regarding the case is corrected.
The court did not specify how long it might take to correct the error for the process to get back on track.
Thus, the extradition of Carvajal from Spain, which has suffered several setbacks, including the escape of the suspect who spent almost two years on the run, is once again paralyzed, just two days after the National Court indicated that it was imminent that he would be sent to the United States.
For years, Carvajal, 61, has been wanted by U.S. Treasury officials who accuse him of providing support to drug trafficking by the FARC guerrilla group.
Who is Hugo Carvajal?
Known as General Caravajal, he was the head of Venezuela’s military counterintelligence from July 2004 to December 2011, during the presidency of Hugo Chavez.
In 2011, U.S. prosecutors accused Carvajal of personally coordinating a U.S–bound shipment of more than five tons of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico.
The indictment also alleges that the former spy was on the payroll of a well-known Colombian drug trafficker and had ties to the FARC.
Known as “El Pollo,” Carvajal is also suspected of having incriminating evidence against current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, with whom he maintains a strong enmity after declaring his support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president in February 2019.
General Hugo Armando Carvajal, who served as intelligence chief under late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, was arrested in September in Madrid after nearly two years on the run.
When he was arrested again in Madrid last month, police said he had remained in Spain the entire time, changing residence frequently and undergoing plastic surgery to avoid being recognized.