Left Menu
Development News Edition

U.S. indicts Venezuela's Maduro, a political foe, for 'narco-terrorism'

Reuters | Updated: 27-03-2020 04:14 IST | Created: 27-03-2020 04:14 IST
U.S. indicts Venezuela's Maduro, a political foe, for 'narco-terrorism'

The U.S. government on Thursday indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and more than a dozen other top Venezuelan officials on charges of "narco-terrorism," the latest escalation of the Trump administration's pressure campaign aimed at ousting the socialist leader. The State Department offered a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest of Maduro, whose country has been convulsed by years of a deep economic crisis and political upheaval.

The indictment, a rare U.S. action against a foreign head of state, marks a serious new phase against Maduro at a time when some U.S. officials have privately said President Donald Trump is increasingly frustrated with the results of his Venezuela policy. Attorney General William Barr, announcing charges that include narco-terrorism conspiracy, corruption and drug trafficking, accused Maduro and his associates of colluding with a dissident faction of the demobilized Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC, "to flood the United States with cocaine."

But Trump administration officials are mindful that their chances are slim of getting Maduro or the other major figures in custody anytime soon, a person familiar with the situation said on condition of anonymity. "While the Venezuelan people suffer, this cabal lines their pockets with drug money and the proceeds of their corruption," Barr said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the charges and rewards being offered showed the Trump administration's "desperation" as well as its "obsession" with the South American country aimed at benefiting Trump's 2020 re-election campaign. Trump's pressure on Venezuela, an OPEC member, has gone over well among Cuban Americans in South Florida, a key voting bloc in a major presidential swing state.

The U.S. government has previously lodged criminal indictments against members of Maduro's family and inner circle. He and his allies have dismissed such allegations as a smear campaign, and argue the United States is responsible for drug trafficking, given its role as a leading consumer. Maduro is already under U.S. sanctions and has been the target of a U.S. effort aimed at pushing him from power. He took office in 2013 after the death of his mentor President Hugo Chavez, a staunch foe of the United States.

Other Venezuelan officials whose indictments were announced on Thursday include Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, senior socialist leader Diosdado Cabello, and the chief justice of the country's supreme court, Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, who was charged with money laundering. The U.S. government is offering $10 million for information leading to Cabello's arrest. The United States and dozens of other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president, regarding Maduro's 2018 re-election as a sham. But Maduro has remained in power, backed by the country's military and by Russia, China and Cuba.

U.S. officials have long accused Maduro and his associates or running a "narco-state," saying they have used proceeds from drugs transshipped from neighboring Colombia to make up for lost revenue from a Venezuelan oil sector hit by heavy U.S. sanctions. Trump denied that the charges were an attempt to take advantage of Venezuela at a vulnerable time when it is expected to be hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

"No, no. We don't look at a weak point. This is a serious problem for over 150 nations," Trump said in response to a reporter's question. But he added: "Maduro and Venezuela, we're watching it very closely." 'DEPLOYED COCAINE AS A WEAPON'

The indictments were unsealed in New York, Florida and Washington. Barr dodged a reporter's question on whether Trump, who has pressed his aides in recent months for a tougher approach on Venezuela, was briefed in advance.

Maduro and his closest allies ran a "narco-terrorism partnership with the FARC for the past 20 years," stated Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who said the Venezuelan president "very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon." "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," he added.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, said she sees signs of Venezuelan officials' laundered money throughout her area every day, from lavish yachts to million-dollar condos. "This party is coming to an end," she said.

Asked whether the U.S. government was also considering designating Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism, which carries further sanctions, Barr said: "It's really one step at time, so I really have nothing to say about that right now." CNN reported earlier that Venezuela was expected to be named to the blacklist as soon as Thursday. But a U.S. official told Reuters such a move was not considered imminent.

Thursday's charges altogether carry a maximum penalty of up to life in prison. Asked whether the U.S. government wants to capture Maduro dead or alive, Barr said: "We want him captured so he can face justice in U.S. court." Barr said the administration does "expect eventually to gain custody of these defendants." But he offered no indication of how U.S. authorities might get their hands on Maduro, who has endured more than a year of international pressure and on-again, off-again street protests.

Maduro's international travel could be restricted, given Washington would be able to request that he be handed over if he visits a country that has an extradition treaty with the United States. U.S. authorities can also freeze any assets he has in the United States, though such holdings are considered unlikely. The Justice Department said that since 1999, Maduro, along with Cabello and others, acted as leaders of the "Cartel of the Suns." The name, it said, refers to the sun insignias affixed to uniforms of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials.

An indictment accused Padrino of using his control of the n military to facilitate cocaine flights to the United States. Venezuelan Vice President Tareck el-Aissami was charged with evading U.S. sanctions.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Download The Devdiscourse News App for Latest News.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Education post-coronavirus: Schools to rush for more digitalization

Digital education would undoubtedly boom in the post-coronavirus world, supported by educational institutions that have discovered its efficiency during the crisis, but it is still not expected to outshine traditional classroom learning....

Public health care post-COVID 19 to go for revamping, not rebooting

Until now, the economies used to classify healthcare sector under social expenditure. However, the devastation caused by COVID 19 pandemic has upgraded public healthcare on topmost priority and core economic activity for controlling future ...

Coronavirus lockdowns to speed up long-pending revamping of supply chains

With millions of production lines impacted, business disruptions to some extent are unavoidable and the lessons learned from this turbulence will leave an everlasting impact on both global and local levels of supply chains....

COVID 19 to catalyze the redefinition of urban planning and sustainability

Until now the urban planning was focused on mitigation to natural disastrous, climate change, pollution, chronic illness and lifestyle diseases. However, the global pandemic of novel coronavirus is going to change the whole narrative of urb...

Videos

Latest News

All parts of UK now on emergency footing to fight coronavirus- minister

All parts of Britain are on an emergency footing the likes of which have not been seen since World War Two in the fight against coronavirus, with strategic coordination centres being set up across the country, housing minister Robert Jenric...

FACTBOX-Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

U.S. deaths from coronavirus could reach 200,000 with millions of cases, the governments top infectious diseases expert warned on Sunday as New York, New Orleans and other major cities warned they would soon run out of medical supplies. DEA...

Govt sets up high-level panels to deal with situation post lockdown; restore normalcy

The government on Sunday constituted 11 empowered groups to suggest measures to ramp up healthcare, put the economy back on track and reduce misery of people as quickly as possible post 21-day lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus pan...

New research may help the elderly to stay physically strong for longer period

A new study has discovered a mechanism that may help elder adults stay physically strong for a longer period. In the study, researchers have identified a mechanism that drives the clearance of damaged mitochondria.The discovery can be consi...

Give Feedback