HAVANA TIMES – The United States has charged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials with narco-terrorism crimes, Attorney General William Barr announced on Thursday, reported dpa news.
The indictments from prosecutors in Miami and New York, newly unsealed by the Justice Department, also include money-laundering and drug-trafficking charges.
Maduro is accused of a conspiracy involving the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla movement, working “to flood the United States with cocaine,” Barr said in a virtual news conference.
Maduro allowed the FARC to use Venezuela as a safe haven from where to fly cocaine into Central America, with the air bridge having grown five-fold in the last four years, Barr said. Drugs were also shipped to the Caribbean via a maritime route.
“We estimate that somewhere between 200 and 250 metric tonnes of cocaine are shipped out of Venezuela by these routes,” equating to “30 million lethal doses,” the attorney general said.
The action comes after years-long investigations by federal authorities in Washington, New York and Florida.
Barr also announced a 15-million-dollar reward for information leading to the arrest or prosecution of Maduro.
The charging of a head of state is highly unusual and marks an escalation of the US government’s campaign to pressure Maduro to step down after his controversial re-election in 2018 and presiding over an economic meltdown that has caused a mass exodus from Venezuela.
The US and dozens of other countries recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Maduro is supported by Venezuela’s military and by China, Russia and Cuba.