Venezuelan Ex-Spy Chief Arrested in Spain

Venezuelan Ex-Spy Chief Arrested in Spain

MADRID — A former Venezuelan spy chief has been arrested by Spanish authorities who acted on an extradition request from the United States, where he is wanted for drug trafficking.

Hugo Carvajal, who had also served as a lawmaker in President Nicolás Maduro’s ruling party, was taken in by Spanish police in Madrid on Friday afternoon, the Spanish police said. He is now expected to appear on Saturday before a Spanish judge, who will review the extradition request.

Mr. Carvajal left Venezuela after making a dramatic break from Mr. Maduro’s government and telling The New York Times in an interview in February that he had witnessed multiple members of Venezuela’s government being involved in drug trafficking.

Mr. Carvajal is wanted for similar crimes himself, having been accused of taking money from a Colombian drug trafficker in an indictment that was unsealed in 2014. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Mr. Carvajal, who was then head of the country’s military intelligence agency, for “protecting drug shipments from seizure by Venezuelan authorities” as well as providing weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, then the country’s main rebel organization.

Hugo Carvajal, a former spy chief in Venezuela, was arrested in Spain on Friday.CreditFernando Llano/Associated Press

In the February interview, Mr. Carvajal denied the charges, saying he had been in touch with the rebels only to negotiate for the release of a Venezuelan businessman they had kidnapped. He had not been involved in drug trafficking, he said, but repeatedly reported suspicious cocaine shipments to top officials, who ignored them.

Mr. Carvajal, who goes by the nickname “el Pollo,” or “the Chicken,” in Venezuela, made a dramatic public defection from his government by video, urging his former military comrades to rise up against Mr. Maduro and support Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition. Few followed his call, however, and Mr. Carvajal’s whereabouts have been unknown since.

His reappearance Friday in the hands of Spanish authorities may lead to his transfer to U.S. custody — and to prosecutors eager to interrogate him on the wrongdoing he has alleged by those in Mr. Maduro’s inner circle.

American authorities’ attempts to capture Mr. Carvajal have stretched on for years.

In 2014, after being appointed as the country’s general counsel to the Caribbean island of Aruba, officials there arrested him, raising hopes with their U.S. counterparts that he would soon be extradited. Aruba originally said that it never accepted his diplomatic post and that he was not protected by it from arrest.

But after angry statements from Venezuela — which lies only 20 miles from the tiny resort island — Mr. Carvajal was released back to Venezuela. He entered the National Assembly afterward as a lawmaker and had since been out of the reach of U.S. authorities.

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