U.S. Charges Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro With International Drug Trafficking

Along with other senior officials, the Venezuelan president is facing drug crimes, escalating relations between the two countries.

President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference
Carolina Cabral / Getty Images

Along with other senior officials, the Venezuelan president is facing drug crimes, escalating relations between the two countries.

On Thursday, March 26, the U.S. released indictments of drug crimes against the former president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros, as well as 14 other current and former Venezuelan senior officials on the Department of Justice website. In addition to international drug trafficking, other charges include corruption, narco-terrorism, and carrying machine guns and other destructive devices to further acts of narco-terrorism.

According to the BBC, Attorney General William Barr made the announcement amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela after heavy sanctions were imposed on Venezuela’s oil industry.

The charges were made in Washington, New York City, and Miami. Each charge carries at sentence of between 10 years and life in prison. Apart from the former president, Venezuela’s vice president for the economy, the Minister of Defense, and Chief Supreme Court Justice were among those charged.

An additional two leaders from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) have also been charged for the role they played in helping the high-ranking officials use cocaine as a weapon in the U.S. The South American country has not yet formally responded to the charges.

“For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities,” said Attorney General Barr.

In the indictment, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan explained that the Venezuelan government officials had cheated the country out of billions of dollars and stored the money in South Florida banks. The U.S. attorney’s office in South Florida, along with the help of federal law enforcement officers, have seized roughly $450 million from the high-level Venezuelan officials and their criminal partners.

The U.S. is offering a reward of $15 million to anyone with pertinent information that could lead to Maduro’s arrest. There are also rewards for up to $10 million to those with information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios, and Alcalá Cordones. As much as $5 million for information that leads to Marín Arango’s arrest and conviction.

In the past year, under Maduro’s leadership, Venezuela has undergone an economic collapse with inflation reaching 800,000 percent. Nearly 5 million people have fled the country. The U.S. has spent years accusing Maduro of brutal leadership and corruption.

Now, Washington leaders back Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in 2019. Though Guaidó is backed by U.S. and European leaders, Maduro technically remains in power with the support of the army. Additionally, Maduro is backed by leaders from Cuba, Russia, and China.