Monday, March 30, 2020

USA puts bounty on Nicolás Maduro | TIME ONLINE

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The United States have filed charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and several of his confidants. The US government accuses them of drug trafficking and money laundering. The U.S. Department of State also issued a $ 15 million bounty on Maduro. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the reward would be paid for clues leading to Maduro’s capture. A total of $ 10 million is suspended on four of Maduro’s confidants.

In an indictment by New York prosecutors, Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, chief of Venezuela ruling socialist party accused of having allied with Colombian former Farc rebels and the Venezuelan military to use drug trafficking as a “weapon against America”.

Another charge from the Miami state attorney’s office was accused of laundering Venezuela’s Chief Justice Maikel Moreno. A total of 15 people were charged, including them Military and two leaders of the now defunct Colombian guerrilla movement Farc. Maduro is said to have been associated with a “drug-terrorist partnership” for 20 years, said prosecutor Geoffrey Berman. Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Industry Tareck El Aissami and former military intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal are among the accused.

Maduro is said to have been running a drug cartel for twenty years

“The Maduro regime is full of corruption and crime,” said Attorney General William Barr. “While the Venezuelan people are suffering, this clique is filling their pockets with drug money and the income from corruption. That has to stop.”

Specifically, Maduro and the other defendants have been named a drug dealer ring since at least 1999 Cartel de los Soles (Cartel of the Suns). The name is a reference to sun symbols on the uniforms of high-ranking Venezuelan military. A report from New York Times Drug trafficking has been said to be a major source of income for Maduro since the decline of the Venezuelan oil industry and to help secure its power.

“The Sun Cartel not only wanted to enrich its members and increase their power, it also wanted to flood the United States with cocaine and burden consumers in the United States with the harmful and addictive effects of drugs,” the Department of Justice said. Investigations that had been going on for over ten years had shown that the Farc and their supporters smuggled up to 250 tons of cocaine into Central America each year in the Venezuelan government.

Charges against acting heads of state are very rare. Acting leaders typically enjoy immunity from law enforcement under US law and international standards. However, the United States does not recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president. Instead, the United States, as well as the EU and the federal government, support the country’s former parliamentary president, Juan Guaidó. He had proclaimed himself transition president in January 2019 and had the support of many western states, but has so far not been able to prevail.

Charges could also serve the US election campaign

Since then, the US has massively tightened existing sanctions against Venezuela. Among other things, they criminalized the purchase of Venezuelan government bonds; in 2019, they extended the sanctions to Venezuela’s oil industry. 90 percent of Venezuelan government revenue previously came from the oil sector, the United States was the country’s most important trading partner. The sanctions significantly worsened the Venezuelan economic crisis that had been going on since 2013; the United States hopes to overthrow Maduro. However, it is still protected by the Venezuelan military.

It is controversial whether the latest charges also serve this aim. For example, former Pentagon employee and Latin America expert Frank Mora said that the US government’s aim is more to secure the votes of Latin American immigrants in the potentially decisive state of Florida in the November presidential election. This is more important to President Donald Trump and his government than to solve the crisis in Venezuela. “We won’t go in and snap him,” Mora said. “This is not about regime change or the restoration of democracy in Venezuela. It is about electoral politics.”

The opposition in Venezuela, on the other hand, welcomed the indictment. Guaidó’s foreign minister Julio Borges said Maduro stands for drug trafficking and organized crime. He called on the armed forces to switch sides and support the opposition.

As a result, Maduro’s government began an investigation into Guaidó over a suspected coup attempt. The Venezuelan Prosecutor General said after the US charges against Maduro were announced. Maduro himself accused the US and Colombia of “giving orders to flood Venezuela by force”. As head of state, he had the duty to defend the peace and stability of the country under all circumstances.

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