Venezuela’s Former Spy Chief Pleads Not Guilty to US Drug Trafficking Charges

Hugo Carvajal, Venezuela's former spy chief, facing US drug trafficking charges.

In a dramatic turn of events, Hugo Carvajal, Venezuela’s former spy chief and confidante to the late President Hugo Chavez, has found himself in the center of a high-stakes legal battle. Carvajal, also known by his nickname “El Pollo,” was extradited from Spain to the United States to face charges of drug trafficking. At a federal hearing in Manhattan, he pleaded not guilty, maintaining his innocence and denying any involvement in the illicit drug trade. This article will delve into the details of Carvajal’s case, shedding light on the allegations and the implications for Venezuela and its ties to drug smuggling.

The Allegations and Extradition Efforts

US prosecutors assert that Hugo Carvajal was responsible for shipping massive quantities of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico, destined for distribution in the US. They claim that Carvajal exploited his position in the Venezuelan government, particularly as chief of military intelligence, to protect and facilitate these drug shipments. It is alleged that approximately 5,600 kilograms of cocaine, equivalent to 12,300 pounds, were sent under his watch.

Carvajal’s Ties to Criminal Organizations

Prosecutors further accuse Carvajal of providing support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist rebel group with reported camps in neighboring Venezuela. As part of a drug-smuggling organization called the Cartel of the Suns, which is allegedly composed of high-ranking members of the Venezuelan military, Carvajal is said to have played a crucial role in the illicit drug trade.

Rise to Power and Legal Troubles

From 2004 to 2011, Hugo Carvajal held the position of head of military counter-intelligence, making him one of the most influential figures in Venezuela. However, his legal issues started in 2011 when he was initially indicted on drug trafficking allegations by a US court. For years, he managed to evade extradition, even after being arrested in 2014 in Aruba. Due to his diplomatic passport, he was later released.

The Defection and Arrest

Carvajal’s life took a dramatic turn when he switched allegiance, backing opposition leader Juan Guaidó in declaring himself interim president, thereby opposing Nicolás Maduro’s regime. Following this move, he fled Venezuela and eventually settled in Spain. In 2019, Spanish authorities arrested him, but Carvajal managed to go into hiding after his extradition to the US was approved. However, in 2021, he was apprehended once more, and last week, he lost his legal battle against extradition to the United States.


The case of Hugo Carvajal, Venezuela’s former spy chief, is a complex and multifaceted saga involving drug trafficking, criminal organizations, and high-level politics. As he pleads not guilty to the charges in a New York court, the world watches closely, considering the implications this trial may have on Venezuela’s image and its connections to drug smuggling. The outcome of this legal battle could potentially shed light on the dark underbelly of power and corruption within the Venezuelan government.


  1. What are the charges against Hugo Carvajal? Hugo Carvajal faces charges of drug trafficking, with US prosecutors alleging that he shipped tons of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico for distribution in the United States.
  2. What position did Hugo Carvajal hold in Venezuela? From 2004 to 2011, Hugo Carvajal served as the head of military counter-intelligence in Venezuela, making him one of the most powerful figures in the country.
  3. What is the Cartel of the Suns? The Cartel of the Suns is a drug-smuggling organization allegedly comprised of high-ranking members of the Venezuelan military, accused of facilitating and protecting drug shipments.
  4. When did Carvajal’s legal troubles begin? Hugo Carvajal’s legal troubles began in 2011 when a US court first indicted him on drug trafficking charges.
  5. What is Carvajal’s current legal status? Carvajal is currently detained in the US after being extradited from Spain. He pleaded not guilty to the drug trafficking charges and awaits his next court hearing.

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