June 5, 2020

The Watchman Herald

Breaking World News

US Charges Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro With Drug Trafficking

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, March 12, 2020.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday announced narco-terrorism and other criminal charges against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and 14 other current and former officials of the country, accusing them of collaborating with a leftist Colombian guerrilla group involved trafficking cocaine to the United State.
Maduro was named in a four-count indictment unsealed in New York along with Diosdado Cabello Rondón, the speaker of Venezuela’s national assembly; Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, a former director of military intelligence; and a former Clíver Antonio Alcalá Cordones, a former general in the Venezuelan armed forces. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Jose Moreno Perez were indicated separately in Washington and Florida.  
The dramatic charges were announced by Attorney General William Barr and other senior law enforcement officials at a virtual press conference.   
“Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government,” Barr said. “The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.”  
The United States does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.  Last year the Trump administration officially recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim head of state.  Most European countries followed suit.   
It is only the second time in recent decades that the Justice Department has indicted a sitting albeit not officially recognized foreign head of state.  In 1988, the Justice Department charged Manuel Noriega, the military ruler of Panama.  
The State Department announced a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest and or conviction of Maduro. Awards of up to $10 million were also announced for four other officials wanted by the Justice Department.  
The charges accuse Maduro, Venezuela’s president since 2013, and his top lieutenants of running “a narcoterrorism partnership” with the Colombian guerilla group FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), for the past 20 years. Two FARC leaders were also charged by the Justice Department in connection with the narco-terrorism conspiracy.   
FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, ending more than 50 years of conflict.    But a dissident group of 2,500 FARC dissidents, backed by the Maduro regime, remains involved in trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the United States via Venezuela and Central America, officials said.  
“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York told reporters via video link.
“As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation,” Berman said.  “Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon.”