Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal, El Pollo, The Chicken, Venezuela, Spymaster

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The two intelligence agents scoured the sun-kissed faces of holidaymakers at Madrid’s airport until they spotted the 5½-foot bald man. Traveling under a disguised identity, Hugo Chávez’s long-time spy chief and one of the U.S.’s most wanted drug fugitives had just landed in Spain that Monday morning in March. Nicknamed “El Pollo” (“The Chicken”), retired Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal had traveled from the Dominican Republic after breaking ranks with Venezuela’s socialist administration and supporting Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed opposition leader. From the Spanish capital he hoped to leverage contacts and knowledge of the Venezuelan deep state to mount a military-backed rebellion against President Nicolás Maduro. Five months later, the former spymaster is in deep trouble. To the frustration of many in the opposition who have secretly tried to flip senior members of Venezuela’s military, Carvajal was arrested days before a failed barracks rebellion on April 30. On Thursday, judges in Madrid will consider whether to extradite him to the U.S. to face federal charges of cocaine trafficking. Carvajal’s fate is being closely followed by others in the Venezuelan security forces looking to defect. If somebody like the former spy, accused of collaborating with terrorist groups and smuggling several tons shipments of drugs into the U.S., could find redemption, there would be hope for others as well. The U.S. has promised senior Venezuelan officials they will be rewarded and see sanctions lifted if they turn decisively against Maduro. The Trump administration’s special envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, even suggested Spain could…

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