US charges Venezuelan president Maduro with drug charges, offers $15 million bounty

Maduro, govt officials accused of facilitating cocaine trade in the US

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro | Reuters Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro | Reuters

On Thursday, the US State Department announced charges against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, on charges of narco-terrorism.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Today, the U.S. announced rewards to bring former Maduro regime officials responsible for international narcotics trafficking to justice. The people of #Venezuela deserve a transparent, responsible, representative government that serves the needs of the people.”

“Today the U. S. Department of State announced a series of rewards for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Venezuelan nationals for whom the Department of Justice unsealed indictments today for their roles in international narcotics trafficking: Nicolás Maduro Moros, Diosdado Cabello Rondón, Hugo Carvajal Barrios, Clíver Alcalá Cordones, and Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah,” the state department said, named Maduro and a handful of other prominent Venezuelan officials.

“The Venezuelan people deserve a transparent, responsible, representative government that serves the needs of the people – and that does not betray the trust of the people by condoning or employing public officials that engage in illicit narcotics trafficking.  The United States is committed to helping the Venezuelan people restore their democracy through free and fair presidential elections that will provide them with honest and competent national leadership,” the statement said. 

The Justice Department stated that Maduro and Venezuelan authorities had facilitated the entry of drugs into the US, seeking to flood the country with cocaine in a bid to “undermine the health and wellbeing” of the US.

“The Venezuelan regime, once led by Nicolás Maduro Moros, remains plagued by criminality and corruption,” said Attorney General Barr. 

“For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.  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.  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” said the Justice department. 

Maduro became Venezuela’s president in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez, winning elections by a narrow margin. He was re-elected in 2018 in a controversial election and since January of 2019, a presidential crisis has been underway with the world divided as to who is the elected leader—Maduro or his rival Juan Guaido. 

Maduro’s regime saw the country reach unprecedented levels of hyperinflation. In 2019, Venezuela was ranked 173 out of 180 in the Corruption Perceptions Index.

The country has 106 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Recently, Venezuela’s request for a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was rejected, as the IMF said there was no clarity as to who was ruling the country. 

Given the situation, Maduro had requested the US to drop the sanctions that were levied against Venezuela. Reuters reported that the country has also turned to China, seeking a renegotiation of oil-for-loan deals that were agreed nearly 15 years under Hugo Chavez but that were halted after hyperinflation grew rampant. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, but struggles to sell this oil as a result of US sanctions.  

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