Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has been charged with federal drug trafficking crimes in Washington, New York, and Florida. The U.S. has also announced a $15 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
The New York Times reports that charges against almost a dozen others will also be announced soon, including Venezuelan government and intelligence officials and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, Colombia’s biggest rebel group, which has long been funded by the cocaine industry. While not all details were made available, known charges include narco-terrorism conspiracy and conspiracy to import cocaine into the U.S.
This news arrives a month after Trump called Maduro “an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people,” and vowed that “Maduro’s grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken.”
Maduro’s aides have been accused of working with drug lords for monetary gain and to fortify the failing country. While Venezuela’s oil industry has weakened, many say that the drug market has helped keep him in power.
Maduro is surrounded by people who have been involved in multiple crimes themselves. In 2019, Maduro’s former Vice President Tareck El Aissami was accused of using his political position to be involved in drug trafficking. He was later indicted in a federal court in Manhattan.
The Treasury Department also previously accused Diosdado Cabello—the former president of the National Assembly and Maduro's close associate—of narcotics trafficking “and other corrupt activities.” And Maduro’s nephews are currently serving prison sentences in the U.S. for drug charges. The nephews—sometimes referred to as “narcosobrinos” in their country—were said to have tried to bring $20 million in drug money to maintain their family’s power.