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Venezuela’s ex-spy chief arrested in Madrid on US warrant

Updated April 14, 2019

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Venezuela’s longtime spy chief retired Maj Gen Hugo Carvajal. — AP/File
Venezuela’s longtime spy chief retired Maj Gen Hugo Carvajal. — AP/File

MADRID: Venezuela’s longtime spy chief was arrested on Friday in Madrid by Spanish police acting on a US drug warrant a few weeks after he threw his support behind opponents of President Nicolas Maduro.

The arrest of retired Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal, who for more than a decade advised the late leader Hugo Chvez, was celebrated by US law enforcement officials who watched helplessly as the spymaster slipped from their grips five years ago when he was picked up in Aruba on the same New York indictment used to order Friday’s arrest.

But some analysts said his surprise detention might have a chilling effect on Venezuela’s opposition.

The opposition saw Carvajal’s criticism of Venezuela’s socialist government as a stimulus to prod other military figures to defect, but the country’s armed forces have remained largely loyal to current Maduro.

Prosecutors in New York alleged Carvajal used his high office to coordinate the smuggling of approximately 5,600 kilograms of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006, according to the indictment.

A spokeswoman with Spa­in’s National Court, which handles extradition cases, said that Carvajal would testify on Saturday before a judge in Madrid. He can either accept the extradition to the United States or fight it before the court, explained the official, who wasn’t authorised to be identified by name in media reports.

Carvajal, who climbed the ranks in Venezuela since he befriended Chvez in the early 1980’s, is no stranger to US law enforcement agencies.

In previous indictments, authorities also named Carvajal as part of several high-ranking Venezuelan military and law enforcement officials who provided a haven to major drug traffickers from neighbouring Colombia.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019