Venezuelan ex-spy chief, Chávez confidant, extradited to US on drug trafficking charges

Hugo 'El Pollo' Carvajal to plead not guilty in Manhattan after extradition from Spain

A former Venezuelan spymaster close to the country's late leader Hugo Chávez has been extradited to New York from Spain on Wednesday to face decade-old drug trafficking charges.

Retired Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal will enter a not guilty plea at his initial appearance Thursday in Manhattan federal court, his lawyer, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, told The Associated Press.

Nicknamed "El Pollo" (The Chicken), Carvajal advised Chávez for more than a decade. He later broke with Chávez's handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, and threw his support behind his U.S. backed opponents.


He did so in dramatic fashion: releasing a videotaped speech from an undisclosed location calling on his former cohorts in the military to rebel against their commander in chief a month into mass protests seeking to replace Maduro with lawmaker Juan Guaido, who the U.S. recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader because of his role as head of the democratically elected National Assembly.

In the end, the barracks revolt never materialized, Guaido's movement faded and Maduro's grip on power has since only strengthened. Meanwhile, Carvajal snuck off to Spain, fearing arrest.

venezuelan ex spy chief chavez confidant extradited to us on drug trafficking charges

Retired Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal of Venezuela has been extradited to New York from Spain on drug trafficking charges. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)

On Wednesday, National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez, a close Maduro ally, called on the U.S. to extradite the former spy chief to Venezuela so he could face multiple criminal charges in his home country as well.

Prosecutors in New York in 2011 alleged that Carvajal used his high office to coordinate the smuggling of approximately 12,300 pounds of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006.


Carvajal also allegedly provided weapons to armed FARC guerrillas in Colombia, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, and helped fund the insurgents by facilitating shipments of large amounts of U.S.-bound cocaine through Venezuela.

In 2020, prosecutors added Maduro and several other senior officials and Colombian rebel leaders to the narco-terrorism conspiracy case. One of those co-defendants, Gen. Cliver Alcala, who also had broken with Maduro, last month pleaded guilty to lesser charges of assisting the rebel group.

A back-and-forth legal battle followed Carvajal's first arrest in Spain in 2019 and delayed the extradition. The process also was halted for nearly two years, after Carvajal vanished while on bail after being tipped off that the Spanish National Court was about to rule on his extradition.

Recaptured in Sept., 2021, the former general continued delaying extradition on numerous appeals that he ultimately lost. He had also applied for political asylum, which Spain rejected.

via FoxNews July 19th 2023