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Ex-Venezuelan spy chief is extradited from Spain to US on drug trafficking prices

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MADRID — A former Venezuelan spymaster near the nation’s late chief Hugo Chávez has been extradited to New York from Spain on Wednesday to face decade-old drug trafficking prices.

Retired Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal will enter a not responsible plea at his preliminary look Thursday in Manhattan federal courtroom, his lawyer, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, instructed The Related Press.

Nicknamed “El Pollo” (The Hen), Carvajal suggested Chávez for greater than a decade. He later broke with Chávez’s handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, and threw his assist behind his U.S. backed opponents.

He did so in dramatic vogue: releasing a videotaped speech from an undisclosed location calling on his former cohorts within the navy to insurgent in opposition to their commander in chief a month into mass protests in search of to switch Maduro with lawmaker Juan Guaido, who the U.S. acknowledged as Venezuela’s reputable chief due to his position as head of the democratically elected Nationwide Meeting.

Ultimately, the barracks revolt by no means materialized, Guaido’s motion pale and Maduro’s grip on energy has since solely strengthened. In the meantime, Carvajal snuck off to Spain, fearing arrest.

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On Wednesday, Nationwide Meeting President Jorge Rodriguez, an in depth Maduro ally, known as on the U.S. to extradite the 63-year-old former spy chief to Venezuela so he may face a number of legal prices in his residence nation as nicely.

Prosecutors in New York in 2011 alleged that Carvajal used his excessive workplace to coordinate the smuggling of roughly 5,600 kilograms (12,300 kilos) of cocaine aboard a jet from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006.

He allegedly organized the cargo as one of many leaders of the so-called Cartel of the Suns that was accused of flooding the U.S. with cocaine. The identify is a reference to the solar insignias affixed to the uniforms of Venezuelan navy officers.

“Carvajal deserted his accountability to the folks of Venezuela and exploited his place for private achieve,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram stated in an announcement. “DEA and our companions stand united to deliver to justice anybody, in any place, who endangers the protection and well being of the American folks.”

Carvajal additionally allegedly offered weapons to armed FARC guerrillas in Colombia, based on the U.S. Treasury Division, and helped fund the insurgents by facilitating shipments of huge quantities of U.S.-bound cocaine by means of Venezuela.

In 2020, prosecutors added Maduro and several other different senior officers and Colombian insurgent leaders to the narco-terrorism conspiracy prices, which carry a compulsory minimal sentence of 20 years in jail and a most sentence of life behind bars. A kind of co-defendants, Gen. Cliver Alcala, who additionally had damaged with Maduro, final month pleaded responsible to lesser prices of helping the insurgent group.

A back-and-forth authorized battle adopted Carvajal’s first arrest in Spain in 2019 and delayed the extradition. The method additionally was halted for practically two years, after Carvajal vanished whereas on bail after being tipped off that the Spanish Nationwide Court docket was about to rule on his extradition.

Recaptured in Sept., 2021, the previous common continued delaying extradition on quite a few appeals that he finally misplaced. He had additionally utilized for political asylum, which Spain rejected.


Goodman reported from Miami. Related Press writers Joseph Wilson in Barcelona and Regina Garcia Cano in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

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