Madrid (AFP) – Former Venezuelan general Hugo Carvajal, head of military intelligence under Hugo Chavez, was held in temporary detention Saturday while Spain waits for a formal US extradition request on charges of cocaine trafficking, judicial sources said.
Carvajal, dubbed “El Pollo” (The Chicken), was taken into custody Friday at his son’s home in Madrid by Spanish police.
He made headlines recently by voicing support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
A judge at a Spainish federal court decided to place Carvajal in provisional detention, while the United States files a “formal extradition request” to judicial authorities, the sources said.
The former army general “denied having links to drug trafficking and the FARC” guerrilla group in Colombia, they added.
He refused to be handed over to US officials and argued that he now has family ties to Spain.
In a statement, the US Justice Department said if convicted, Carvajal faced a sentence of between 10 years to life in prison over the charges of conspiracy to import more than five tonnes of cocaine into the United States.
“No matter the rank or level of influence of an individual, we will continue to pursue and prosecute those who bring deadly drugs into this country in a US court of law,” said prosecutor Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Carvajal has long been sought by US Treasury officials who suspect him of providing support to drug trafficking by FARC guerrillas.
In May 2013, a Florida court accused him of having worked for Colombian drug traffickers from 2004 to 2010.
In 2014, Carvajal was arrested on the Dutch island of Aruba where he was Venezuela’s consul, but he fled back to Venezuela after claiming diplomatic immunity.
He was the highest-ranking army official to declare his support for Guaido, saying that the six-year Nicolas Maduro presidency had been a disaster.
On February 21, he posted a video on Twitter in which he told army officers: “How it all ends will depend on you my brothers in arms” and urging them to stand “on the right side of history.”
Maduro then ousted Carvajal and the former military man was accused of “acts of treason.”