“I will be fine. Take care of children”. This is how General Hugo Armando Carvajal, former head of Venezuelan intelligence, said goodbye to his wife, Angélica Flores, last Friday, November 8. It was not the first time that he ran away with all his secrets in tow. At 59, a disciple of Hugo Chávez in the military academy and a man of his total confidence during the eight years that he was part of the Chavista government, he arrived in Spain last March fleeing from “the violations” of the Nicolás Maduro regime. account his wife, settled in the capital of Spain with all his family. Carvajal is accused of being the nexus of the former guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with Venezuela. Carvajal, black beast of the DEA (North American drug control agency); Maduro’s ally, who now sees him as a traitor; potential confidante of the Spanish authorities and, later, fled his justice. Carvajal is in the eye of a state interest hurricane.
The United States accuses him of drug trafficking and requests his extradition to Spain. The Spanish justice, to whom he offered his “collaboration” as soon as he arrived in Madrid, denied his surrender to the US authorities on September 18 on the grounds that he was responding to “political reasons.” But, after an appeal from the Prosecutor’s Office, he finally authorized it on November 8. However, that last decision of the plenary session of the National High Court included three opposing votes. One of them – that of the magistrate of the Criminal Chamber, José Ricardo de Prada – exposed the pressures of Jorge Carrera Domenech, Spain’s liaison judge in Washington, received by a magistrate to extradite Carvajal. The day after they met, the Spanish Ministry of Justice expressed its intention to remove Carrera Domenech from his post in the US capital. According to the extradition law, it is the Spanish Government who, in the last instance, will decide in the Council of Ministers whether or not he is handed over to the United States when he is detained.
Friends at the CNI
Carvajal inherited the nickname of The chicken from a colleague from the military academy where he entered at the age of 11. He settled in Madrid, with his eight children, five from Angélica Flores (two adopted) and three from his first wife, in March, a month before his arrest. “He trusted the Spanish justice system and had friends at the National Intelligence Center (CNI),” explains Flores. “He sent us here [España] in February, when he was determined to support Juan Guaidó ”, interim president of Venezuela, he adds. It was not just any endorsement. Carvajal, although already critical of Maduro at the time and retired, is one of the great figures of Chavismo, with a relevant role in the Armed Forces. In his message, Carvajal, who has always been considered a person very close to Diosdado Cabello, number two chavismo, urged the military to act to restore democracy in the Caribbean country. They did not follow him.
He thus attacked Maduro in the midst of the humanitarian crisis in his country, knowing that he was running a serious risk there – “today he would be dead in Venezuela,” says Flores. And also in Spain, since “he knew that the United States’ extradition claim, which has been after him since 2008, could be reactivated.” “That year he made a report for the late President Chávez in which he warned that the DEA agents operating in our country were informants, North American spies,” says his wife, a lawyer by profession, who is currently engaged in real estate business in the capital of Spain. After that report, Chávez expelled the DEA from Venezuela.
In 2014, claimed by the US, Carvajal was detained by Dutch authorities on the Caribbean island of Aruba, where Maduro had him exiled with a diplomatic post, and from where he managed to return it to Venezuela before it passed into the hands of the Americans. Maduro publicly presented himself as their liberator and stuck out his chest in front of the Americans.
“But my husband did not last 10 months with Maduro, he quickly saw how he understood the intelligence services and the rights violations that he wanted me to carry out on his behalf,” says Flores. “Kidnappings, murders and extortion are the order of the day in the Maduro government,” says another Carvajal relative, who prefers not to be identified.
“Several CNI agents went to look for Hugo [Carvajal] to Barajas and they brought us to their eldest son’s house in a dark van, ”recalls Flores. He arrived in Spain on March 18 with a false identity (“Adolfo José Mouriño”), and the police who are now looking for him suspect that, “if he has left Spain, he will have done so with another false passport.” What nobody doubts is that Carvajal has help in Spain. His wife recognizes him, although she complains about the “little protection” received from her “CNI friends.” On April 12, when they arrested him, they were on their way to a second meeting with them, according to Flores. “Hugo never gave the information offered,” he says.
Carvajal spent five months in Estremera jail waiting for the extradition request to be resolved. There he met Commissioner Villarejo, who even “gave in” to his lawyer for a week, “while he changed his strategy,” explains Dolores Argüelles, who leads his defense with a Brazilian lawyer. “We are going to request the annulment of the procedure, we will go to the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court and the Human Rights Court if necessary,” he says.
A month after Carvajal entered prison, the police arrested the former Spanish ambassador to Venezuela, Raúl Morodo (85 years old), and his son (Alejo) and three other people, for an alleged crime of money laundering. They had allegedly laundered 4.5 million euros by preparing “false reports” for the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. curiously The chicken he had prepared a report on that company, although his family members and his lawyers deny that he provided information on the matter to the Spanish authorities.
Since leaving Estremera on September 16, Carvajal appeared every 15 days at the Hearing, pending extradition. It was not until November 8 when, “upon receiving a call from a journalist who asked him about the change in the court’s decision” —according to his family’s sources—, he decided to flee before the police and the notification arrived.
The accusations that fly over the former director of Military Intelligence (DIM), Chávez’s counterintelligence, between 2004 and 2011, have to do with his alleged links with drug trafficking. Sanctioned by the Treasury Department, Carvajal is related to the criminal organization called Cartel de los Soles, allegedly made up of the Venezuelan military and linked to drug trafficking. Most of the evidence that incriminates Carvajal was obtained on the computer of FARC leader Raúl Reyes, who was killed after a bombing of his camp by the Colombian armed forces in 2008.
“Carvajal’s flight is an embarrassment to the Government of Spain,” said the United States representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams. “From at least approximately 1999 to even 2019, Hugo Carvajal was a member of a Venezuelan organization of drug traffickers made up of senior Venezuelan officials and others, known as the Cartel of the Suns,” the US Justice Department writes. In the document, Carvajal is accused of facilitating the FARC’s passage of the drug through Venezuela to make it reach the US A spokesperson for the Department of Justice has avoided making assessments: “As it is a matter of policy, we do not comment.”
“In the United States they accuse you first and then, depending on what you are willing to assume and tell, they take away your grief,” says Flores. Other sources in the Carvajal family assure that “the US position is not unambiguous and personal ambitions of US prosecutors with aspirations to become governors or senators and former quarrels with members of the DEA intersect.”