Trump admin. indicts Nicolas Maduro on narcotics, drug trafficking charges

Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores in La Guaira Venezuela on Dec 8 2019

Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores in La Guaira Venezuela on Dec 8 2019

The State Department also announced a $10 million rewards for Cabello, Alcala and Carvajal.

After over a year of pushing its preferred leader, Juan Guaido, accomplished nothing except wearing out the latter's welcome in the opposition National Assembly, Washington appears to have lost patience with their golden boy's failed coup attempts, pushing him aside to play hardball. Maduro's other key plank of power - the military - also took a hit as May 2019 charges against Defence Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino were unsealed from Washington.

The indictment, filed in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), alleges that Maduro and his cohorts were actively engaged in a "corrupt and violent narco-terrorism conspiracy between the Venezuelan Cartel de Los Soles and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)"-a Leninist-Marxist rebel group known as one of the world's largest producers of cocaine". He is the subject of a new federal indictment.

The unusual charging of a head of state marks an escalation in Washington's campaign to pressure Maduro to step down after his controversial reelection in 2018, followed by an economic meltdown afflicting Venezuelans.

"The government of Donald Trump is once more attacking the Venezuelan people and its democratic institutions, using a new form of coup d'etat based on miserable, vulgar and unfounded accusations", he said. That's according to two USA officials familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department accused Maduro of leading a cocaine-trafficking gang called "The Cartel of the Suns" that shipped hundreds of tons of narcotics into the U.S. over two decades, earning hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of NY, will formally discuss the charges at a news conference.

"The Venezuelan regime, once led by Nicolás Maduro Moros, remains plagued by criminality and corruption", Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. The name, it said, refers to the sun insignias affixed to the uniforms of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials.

USA officials see other parallels as well. In 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions against him for alleged drug trafficking and other related crimes.

Barr said interdiction by America and its allies of contraband at sea has increased in recent months - in cases, for example, in which the U.S. Coast Guard stops speedboats or semi-submersible vessels that ferry drugs north in the Eastern Pacific Ocean or in the Caribbean Sea.

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