In the midst of the global crisis due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of the United States (USA) made a criminal accusation on Thursday against the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, and other senior officials and former officials of the Caribbean nation, for allegedly assuming a leadership role in the illegal drug trade.
The accusations represent a further escalation of the pressure exerted by the administration of the US president, Donald Trump, to try to overthrow Maduro, and which so far has not been successful.
After describing the constitutional president of Venezuela as «illegitimate» and as a «dictator», promoting destabilizing actions, supporting and sponsoring the self-proclaimed «interim president» Juan Guaidó, and also orchestrating frustrated coups and applying economic sanctions, now the tenant of the White House has chosen to accuse Maduro of being the leader of a drug cartel.
The United States Attorney General, William Barr, made the formal charges of narcoterrorism, arms trafficking and corruption against the Venezuelan president.
The accusations are also directed against 13 high-ranking officials in Venezuela, such as the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), Maikel Moreno; Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López; the head of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello; and the Minister of Industry and Production, Tareck El Aissami.
The list also includes General (retired) Hugo Carvajal Barrios, former director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence of Venezuela (DGCIM); and Clíver Alcalá Cordones, Major General (retired) of the Venezuelan Army.
Barr indicated that Maduro could face a minimum sentence of 50 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.
The accusation maintains that the Venezuelan president «helped direct and, ultimately, led» a criminal organization known as the ‘Cartel de los Soles’, (Cartel of the Suns).
According to the US authorities, under the leadership of President Maduro, the cartel «sought not only to enrich its members and increase their power, but also to flood the United States with cocaine and inflict the harmful and addictive effects of the drug on the users of this country».
The text states that Maduro and other members of the cartel «prioritized the use of cocaine as a weapon against the United States of America and imported as much cocaine as possible into the United States».
«The Maduro regime is immersed in cash and criminality», Barr said, noting that the president «has allowed Venezuela to be used as a safe place for drug trafficking» in the region.
He stated that there are routes, including Venezuela, through which they transport between 200 and 250 metric tons of cocaine to the North American country and other territories.
«Those 250 metric tons equals 30 million lethal doses», he said.
He also accused the president and his senior officials of allegedly conspiring with the extinct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) «to flood the US with cocaine, to undermine the health and well-being of our nation».
According to Barr, in his role as leader of the ‘Los Soles Cartel’, Maduro negotiated shipments of multiple tons of cocaine produced by the FARC.
He was also responsible for coordinating «foreign affairs with Honduras and other countries to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking; and to request assistance from the FARC leadership to train a group of unauthorized militiamen that functioned, essentially, as a unit of the armed forces for the Los Soles Cartel”.
Barr reported that investigations into the charges involved officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the National Security Investigations Agency (HSI).
$ 15 million for Maduro
After the charges were filed, in the style of the “old wild west”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in a press release that the United States is offering a reward of $ 15 million in exchange for information about Maduro, and 10 million for information that leads to the arrest of the other leaders, something that is striking considering that the Venezuelan president is leading his government in Venezuela and is fully located.
«We hope to eventually bring those accused into custody, and we will explore all options for doing so … Some of them travel and may provide an opportunity (for their arrest)», the statement said.
The text also highlighted that Washington took these measures because it is «committed» to «restoring» democracy in the South American country «through free and fair presidential elections».
The third highest reward
The reward offered by the US Department of Justice for Nicolás Maduro is the third highest in US history for the arrest of a person.
The first corresponds to that of Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al Qaeda, and for whom 25 million dollars were offered, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001
The second corresponds to that of the current head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for whom the same amount is offered ($ 25 million).
Also included are the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with 10 million dollars, and the drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, with 8.5 million dollars.
Likewise, under the State Department’s Narcotics Rewards Program, the American nation «has paid more than $ 130 million in retribution for information on some 75 drug traffickers since it was created in 1986», reported RT.
What is the United States looking for?
Every action in the United States responds to a strategy, so the charges against Nicolás Maduro are not a random measure.
The accusation was generated days after the Venezuelan government announced the capture of a Colombian national, with a shipment of weapons that were been transported from that nation to Venezuela, to be used in attacks on key figures in state positions. Criminal actions that the US Government would be aware of.
It also occurred, after some opposition leaders pointed out the need for some understanding with the Government to deal with the emergency of the coronavirus pandemic, which already registers 107 positive cases and one deceased in Venezuela, to which Maduro responded, as it is usual with him, with a call for dialogue.
«He proposed the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference as the meeting place and specifically pointed to Capriles Radonski (former presidential candidate in 2013), Henri Falcón (former presidential candidate in 2018) and Henry Ramos Allup (deputy and leader of Democratic Action), without any mention to (Juan) Guaidó”, reviewed Izquierda Diario.
«We want peace, justice, democracy, freedom,» ratified the Venezuelan head of State.
Izquierda Diario also stated that the escalation in Washington «has to do with a move with domestic objectives to consolidate its right wing electorate» or if it seeks to «respond from above» to the accusation that the US would be involved in the revealed plan of military aggression against the Venezuelan government officials from Colombia».
Another objective would be «to dynamite the possible scenario of a dialogue and agreements between Maduro and large sectors of the opposition», which would leave the weakened Guaidó completely nullified, «the pawn of US policy towards Venezuela in the last period».
The charges against Maduro were also filed on the same day that it emerged that the United States, with more than 80,000 reported cases, is the country with the highest number of people infected with coronavirus worldwide.
It would be no surprise if Trump decided to intensify his attack on the Venezuelan government, to distract attention from his criticized management of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the fact that the North American nation became the new main focus of the pandemic. .
Coup d’état modality
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza rejected the United States’ «narcoterrorism» accusations against President Nicolás Maduro and other high-ranking officials in his Cabinet, calling them «a new form of coup d’etat.»
«Venezuela denounces that at a time when humanity is facing the fiercest of pandemics, the Government of Donald Trump is again attacking the people of Venezuela and its democratic institutions using a new form of coup d’état based on miserable, vulgar and unfounded accusations», he said.
According to a statement released by Arreaza, the Donald Trump government tries to minimize the high recognition that the South American nation has «in the fight against drug trafficking fully demonstrated in different multilateral fields».
“The policy of change of government by force in Venezuela is doomed to failure. Offering rewards in the style of racist cowboys from the Wild West demonstrates Washington’s despair and obsession with Venezuela», said Arreaza, who stated that the new Trump attack only seeks to win more votes in Florida.
Likewise, he considered that these actions also reveal the deep frustration of the White House for the peace that exists in Venezuela, and the management that the Government of President Maduro has done in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Confirmation of the coup
Something that did not figure in Donald Trump’s plans is that, a few hours after the charges against Nicolás Maduro were announced, Clíver Alcalá Cordones, one of those accused of integrating the alleged drug trafficking network, would offer statements to a Colombian station in which he confessed that it was he who organized, from Colombian soil, the plan denounced by the Venezuelan Government that included a series of selective assassinations, including that of President Nicolás Maduro.
According to Alcalá, the weapons seized by Venezuela were part of a plan for military actions within the country, and that it would have been a plan approved by Juan Guaidó and financed with the «resources of the Venezuelan State» available to it, thanks to the support of the US government.
The retired major general pointed out that he was the head of that operation, in which they hired «US advisers», in a contract to which Guaidó himself would have put his signature on, of which, he said, he has evidence in his possession.
He stated that a few hours later, after the Venezuelan government announced the seizure of the weapons, he contacted the Colombian government to update him on the situation.
«It is also not clear whether these statements by Alcalá Cordones are a response to the ‘strange’ fact of being included in the list of the accused. Or if his inclusion in that list is due to the fact that the Venezuelan government has unveiled the plan that involved the major general and the North American contractors», stated Izquierda Diario.
Alcalá pointed out that he is at his home in the Colombian city of Barranquilla, as the government of Iván Duque is aware, and that he is at the disposal of Washington and Bogotá, so “nobody has to collect 10 million dollars for information about me».
However, the Venezuelan president denounced that the DEA was in charge of directing the conspiracy plans confirmed by Alcalá Cordones.
«I know the US put the DEA to direct the operation with Cliver Alcalá. He says he signed a contract. The contract was signed by the DEA and the US as a promise to exculpate him, to let him be and not prosecute him», alerted Maduro.
For now, he indicated that in the next few hours, evidence of this assertion will be presented, while the Prosecutor’s Office will open an investigation to Juan Guaidó and Clíver Alcalá Cordones for the «confessed crime of attempted coup d’état».