The Criminal Chamber of the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) yesterday agreed to hand over to the United States the former Venezuelan intelligence chief Hugo ‘El Pollo’ Carvajal for alleged crimes of arms and drug trafficking, after the decision to deny him the asylum he had requested in 2019 became final in administrative proceedings.
In this way, the National Court reactivated the extradition process of Carvajal, whose surrender to Washington was approved in 2020 by both the court and the government, although it was paralysed last September while waiting for the asylum issue to be resolved.
Now, the Third Section orders that ‘El Pollo’, held in the prison of Estremera, be placed at the disposal of the International Police Cooperation Unit, which must materialise the handover to the US authorities. However, the Venezuelan ex-general, who has been summoned by another judge of the Audiencia Nacional for 27 October after reopening a case for alleged illegal financing of Podemos in light of the documentation he has been handing over in recent weeks, could still play one last card.
According to legal sources consulted by Europa Press, he could continue to fight his asylum by filing an appeal before the Administrative Chamber of the Audiencia Nacional. There, he could request as a precautionary measure that his extradition be suspended once again until there is a firm decision on his request for international protection, also through the courts.
The administrative channel has been closed after the Ministry of the Interior has rejected in the last few days the appeal for reconsideration that ‘El Pollo’ made to try to reverse the initial refusal of the department headed by Fernando Grande-Marlaska. Carvajal requested asylum in June 2019 and Interior denied it shortly after, in September of that year. He informed the prison of Estremera, where he had been in provisional detention, because there was no record of his address in Spain, but Carvajal did not find out because he was no longer in the penitentiary centre.
The process was dormant until Carvajal was arrested on 9 September in Madrid with the intention of sending him immediately to the United States. Then, he claimed that his asylum was unanswered and, after being informed by the Interior that it had been denied in 2019, he appealed, thus stopping his delivery to Washington.
Following his arrest, Carvajal then asked to be able to testify in the examining court of the Audiencia Nacional where his extradition was being processed, which was agreed to by its head, the magistrate Manuel García Castellón. At first he said he was going to talk about international terrorism issues such as ETA and FARC, but finally in his statement he pointed to alleged payments to former Podemos leaders through the state oil company (PDVSA), among them he cited Juan Calos Monedero. He also pointed to former judge Baltasar Garzón, as well as other alleged irregularities involving former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.