UPDATE: 5:25 p.m.
MIAMI >> The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it has accused Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolás Maduro of several key aids to the narcotics charges.
The department has accused them of conspiring with Colombian rebels to “flood the United States with cocaine.”
“We estimate that somewhere between 200 and 250 metric tons of cocaine are shipped from Venezuela by road. These 250 metric tons are equal to 30 million lethal doses,” he said.
The Trump administration will announce allegations against Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and members of his inner circle for effectively converting the state of Venezuela into a criminal enterprise in the service of drug traffickers and terrorist groups, according to four people familiar with the situation.
The indictments of prosecutors in Miami and New York, which will cover money-laundering and drug-trafficking charges, will be announced at a news conference by Attorney General William Barr today, according to the map, which spoke on condition of anonymity discussed on. the charges are ahead of the unsealing.
The United States is expected to announce $ 25 million in rewards for information leading to the arrest or prosecution of Maduro and Diosado Cabello, head of the Socialist ruling party. That’s according to two US officials familiar with the matter. The State Department is announcing the rewards of the Department of Justice to go public with the allegations, officials said.
The allegation of a state-run malfunction is very unusual and is bound to click up tensions between Washington and Caracas as the spread of the coronavirus threatens to collapse a healthy and oil-dependent economy driven deep into the ground by years of corruption and US. sanctions.
Analysts said the action could boost Trump’s re-election in the key swing state of Florida, which he won by a narrow margin in 2016 and where Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans fleeing authoritarian regimes have political muscle.
But its unclear how it brings Venezuela any closer to ending a 15-month separation between Maduro, who has support from Russia and China, and US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó. It could also fragment the US-led coalition against Maduro if European and Latin American allies think the Trump administration is overused.
“This kind of action does nothing to help a negotiated solution — something that’s already really difficult,” said Roberta Jacobson, who served as the State Department’s top diplomat for Latin America until 2018.
Maduro, a 57-year-old former bus driver, portrays himself as an icon all Latin American residents left. He has long accused the “American empire” of seeking any excuse to take control of the world’s largest oil supply, his fellow plotting to invade in 1989 in Panama and the removal of General Manuel Noriega to face traffic charges drugs in Florida.
Barr and Elliott Abrams, special envoy to the State Department over Venezuela, are leading the US Hwishish position toward Maduro as much as they push for Noriega’s ouster in the late 1980s – Barr as a senior Justice Department official and Abrams as secretary of state for Latin America. .
American officials also see other parallels. Noriega transformed Panama into a playground for violent, international drug cartels while the Trump administration accused Maduro and his military henchmen of storing drug traffickers, guerrillas in Colombia and even Hezbollah, a designated terrorist group.
They also accused government officials and well-connected businessmen of stealing hundreds of billions of dollars from state coffers, much of it from state-owned oil company PDVSA, which saw its production plunge into a seven-decade low.
Still, charging Maduro was no easy task. Sitting foreign leaders normally enjoy immunity from prosecution under U.S. law and international standards.
But the United States is in 60 countries that do not consider Maduro a head of state even though it holds de facto power. They instead recognized Guaidó, the head of congress, as the rightful leader after the socialist re-election of a 2018 race ruled by allegations of fraud and a boycott of the opposition.
Evidence against Maduro has been collected for years by investigators in Miami, New York, Houston and Washington who have brought drug trafficking, foreign corruption and money-laundering charges against several senior Venezuelan officials, members of the military and government-related businessmen. an.
Many of those surveys have focused on PDVSA, which is the source of virtually all of Venezuela’s export revenue. Last year the US sanctioned PDVSA, preventing Americans from doing business with the oil giant.
But to the great surprise, heir Hugo Chavez’s stubbornly stubborn grip on power, withstood months of street protests last year and even a US-backed military riot all while millions of Venezuelan migrants are running hyperinflation and widespread food shortages.
With support on the streets for Guaidó dissolution, the Trump administration raised the ante last fall, removing support for a Norway-sponsored mediation effort and extending sanctions so that even foreign companies face retaliation for extending Maduro a lifeline.
Separately, Barr, echoed calls from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, prioritizing investigations into Maduro’s inner circle, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss discussions with the Department of Internal Justice.
The pressure to deliver, the people said, went into overdrive at the time when Guaidó visited Washington in February and Trump praised him as his guest at the State of the Union address as “a very brave man, to whom that brings with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans. “
But the spread of the coronavirus pandemic was delayed by the announcement, which was originally scheduled for March 16, according to the people.
The virus is likely to distract Washington’s most attention and threaten to stifle opposition, some of whom have expressed a willingness to work with Maduro to stem the developing medial crisis. It could also give new life to Maduro’s call for the US to ease sanctions, an idea that several European Union allies have also warmed to.
Frank Mora, a former Pentagon official, said the United States is good at condemning Maduro and others for repressing his people, stealing state coffers and turning the country into a criminal state.
But he worries the allegations play more of the emotion of Latino voters in Florida than helping address the country’s grinding crisis.
“We’re not going to go in and take it,” Mora says, who is now the Latin American chief of study institute at Florida International University. “This is not about regime change or restoring democracy in Venezuela. It is about electoral politics.”