Thursday, August 6, 2020

U.S. indicts Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro on narcoterrorism charges

The Trump administration unsealed sweeping indictments against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and members of his inner circle on narcoterrorism charges yesterday, a dramatic escalation in the U.S. campaign to force the authoritarian socialist from power.

The administration also announced a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro’s capture or conviction, an extraordinary bounty on a man still recognized by the Russians, Chinese and others as Venezuela’s rightful leader. The move effectively turns the 57-year-old former union leader into an internationally wanted man, giving Venezuelans new motivation to act against him and adding a new level of risk to any travel he might attempt beyond the confines of his power center in Caracas.

Attorney General William P. Barr announced the indictments of Maduro and other current and former Venezuelan officials on charges including money laundering, drug trafficking and narcoterrorism. Barr and other U.S. officials alleged a detailed conspiracy headed by Maduro that worked with Colombian guerrillas to transform Venezuela into a transshipment point for moving massive amounts of cocaine to the United States.

The action, rumored for years, comes as the U.S.-backed opposition movement to oust Maduro has struggled to maintain momentum. The coronavirus has effectively halted the opposition rallies that have been a signature of the movement.

On Thursday, Barr accused Maduro of “deploying cocaine as a weapon” to undermine the United States. The charges against Maduro, brought in indictments in New York and Florida, carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 50 years in prison and a maximum of life.

The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Geoff Berman, seemed to concede that U.S. authorities could not arrest Maduro in Venezuela, but noted that the leader might travel outside his country.  

WASHINGTON POST