MR. CARVAJAL, known in Venezuela as “El Pollo” (the chicken), was a long-time confidant of Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, serving as his head of military intelligence for several years beginning in 2004.
In 2008 he was put under sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department on accusations that he facilitated drug shipments and provided arms for Colombia’s FARC guerrilla group. Federal charges which accuse him of co-ordinating a 5,600kg (12,345lb) shipment of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in 2006, became public in 2014.
The US Justice Department said in April that if convicted, Hugo Carvajal could face between 10 years and life in prison.
Washington also believes that Mr Carvajal could share incriminating evidence about Mr Maduro.
Mr Carvajal escaped Venezuela by boat to the Dominican Republic before travelling on to Spain and was arrested by Spanish police in Madrid in April at the request of Washington.
Carvajal was an ally of Venezuela’s late Socialist leader Hugo Chavez and has turned against Maduro, who succeeded Chavez. He has denied accusations he helped Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels smuggle cocaine to the United States.
Yesterday (Monday) Mr Carvajal was pictured with his family as he left a prison in Spain.
During the extradition hearing last week, he said Washington was fabricating the drug charges in order make him talk, raising doubts about whether he will cooperate in future with the United States.
The court ruled against the extradition despite the state prosecutor’s recommendation that the request be satisfied. It will explain its reasoning on Tuesday.
“I didn’t expect any other outcome. I’m innocent,” Carvajal told reporters as he left the prison on the outskirts of Madrid surrounded by his family, including various young children.
“Of course some day I will go back to Venezuela, and for now I will continue fighting for my country, as long as Spain allows me,” he said.
Carvajal praised the Spanish justice system and said his imprisonment conditions were nothing to complain about. “I wish there were prisons like that in Venezuela,” he said.
The Spanish government has the final say on extraditions, but it tends to follow the court’s rulings.
This was not the first time Mr Carvajal had faced extradition to the US. In 2014 he was arrested on drug trafficking charges on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. However he was freed after the extradition request was denied.