United States authorities have charged Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and some of his associates with drug trafficking and conspiracy with terrorists. It has now offered multi- million dollar rewards for their arrest.
The US claims that the evidence against Maduro was collected over several years by investigators in Miami, New York, Houston and Washington DC.
United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo announced that the State Department would offer cash rewards of up to $55m for information leading to the arrest or convictions of Maduro and four of his associates. The rewards are being offered under the department’s Narcotics Rewards Program.
United States attorney general, William Barr, said the Venezuelan leadership collaborated with a dissident faction of the former Colombian guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, operating on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, which he described as an “extremely violent terrorist organization”.
Barr also said that Venezuelan leaders and the Farc faction organised an “air bridge” from a Venezuelan airbase transporting cocaine to Central America and a sea route to the Caribbean.
“We estimate that somewhere between 200 and 250 metric tons of cocaine are shipped out of Venezuela by these routes,” Barr said.
Venezuela’s Vice-President for the Economy, Venezuela’s defence minister, and the supreme court’s chief justice are among the list of 15 current and former officials who have been indicted.
The United States is among 60 countries that no longer consider Maduro a head of state. They instead recognise Guaido, the head of congress, as Venezuela’s rightful leader following Maduro’s controversial re-election in a 2018 poll which was marred by allegations of fraud.