Hugo Carvajal

Spain’s high court has ruled that Venezuela’s former spy chief, Hugo Carvajal, should be extradited to the United States.

Carvajal faces charges of drug trafficking and collaborating with Colombia’s Farc terrorist group.

But he could also have incriminating evidence against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a major adversary of the United States.

Carvajal fell out with Mr Maduro and fled Venezuela for Spain in 2019.

Carvajal has repeatedly denied having any links to drug traffickers or the Marxist Farc rebels, and said the charges against him are politically motivated.

The Spanish high court ruling follows an interior ministry decision to refuse Mr Carvajal asylum. However, that process has yet to be completed as Mr Carvajal can appeal.

The extradition could also be delayed by another court case Carvajal may have to testify in.

It involves alleged illegal financing from Venezuela of Spain’s left-wing Podemos party.

 Carvajal, 61, nicknamed “El Pollo” (The Chicken), was arrested in Spain last month after he had been in hiding for nearly two years in the wake of an earlier Spanish court decision which backed his extradition.

The US and the government of President Maduro have been at loggerheads for years, with the US imposing tough sanctions on Venezuela.

Who is Hugo Carvajal?

Gen Carvajal was the head of Venezuela’s military counter-intelligence from July 2004 until December 2011, when Hugo Chávez was president of the country.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) embraces retired General Hugo Carvajal as they attend the Socialist party congress in Caracas, Venezuela July 27, 2014.
Carvajal was a supporter of President Maduro but later turned against him

In 2011, US prosecutors accused  Carvajal of personally coordinating a US-bound shipment of more than five tonnes of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico.

The indictment also accused him of being on the payroll of a Colombian drug lord and having links to Farc.

He avoided an earlier US attempt at extradition and served again as military counter-intelligence chief under Mr Maduro.

But in 2019 Mr Carvajal chose to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader, and fled that year to Spain.