Mr. Carvajal was first detained on the American extradition request in April 2019 after he fled to Spain. But he was then released from a Spanish prison after a court deemed the extradition request to be too “abstract” to establish his involvement in drug trafficking.
Prosecutors successfully appealed the ruling, but Mr. Carvajal went missing, creating a diplomatic headache for Spain and adding another twist in a long cat-and-mouse game.
In a February 2019 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Carvajal denied that he was involved in drug trafficking. After his detention in Spain and during his extradition hearing, he and his lawyers claimed that the drug charges had been fabricated, and that the case brought by the United States was politically motivated.
The United States Justice Department has said that in April 2006, Mr. Carvajal coordinated the transportation of about six U.S. tons of cocaine to Mexico from Venezuela, according to charges filed in federal court in New York. If convicted, he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life.
Known by the nickname “El Pollo,” or “The Chicken,” Mr. Carvajal served for several years as the military intelligence chief under Hugo Chávez, the former leader of Venezuela, and under Mr. Maduro. Later, he was a lawmaker in the governing Socialist Party before his abrupt falling-out with Mr. Maduro, Mr. Chávez’s successor.
Mr. Carvajal urged the military to side with Mr. Maduro’s main opponent, Juan Guaidó. Mr. Guaidó was recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate president by the United States and several other Western governments, but that has not prevented Mr. Maduro from holding onto power, even as his country’s economic problems have spiraled in recent years.
Though Mr. Carvajal cannot appeal the extradition ruling directly, he could try to remain in Spain by appealing the decision to deny him asylum, said Martín Palladino, a Spanish lawyer who specializes in extradition issues.