U.S. investigating top Venezuelan officials for drug-trafficking

Top civilian and military officials of Venezuela are being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency for profiting from the drug trade.  One of the top targets is Diosdado Cabello, the National Assembly president, according to a source at DEA.

New York Times:

It is not clear what United States prosecutors plan to do with any evidence they may have collected on Mr. Cabello and others. The United States and Venezuela have long had strained relations, making it unlikely that the authorities in Caracas would hand over high-profile leaders if they were charged.

The prosecutors, however, could make it hard for anyone implicated to travel, and assets held abroad could be frozen. A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration declined to comment.

News of the investigation was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

“Those who accuse me today of drug trafficking, let them present one piece of evidence — just one, just one,” Mr. Cabello said on Venezuelan television on Tuesday, while surrounded by other legislators in the National Assembly.

“Our whole lives, we have been fighters for the new man and the new woman, and it would never occur to us to get involved in anything that could hurt the young people of Venezuela or the world,” Mr. Cabello said.

Mr. Cabello recently filed a defamation lawsuit in Venezuela against two newspapers and a website that ran articles about an aide’s cooperation with American investigators. United States officials have long charged that there are links between the Venezuelan military and drug traffickers. Those ties, according to the officials, include a close relationship with the largest guerrilla group in neighboring Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which relies on narcotics trafficking, particularly of cocaine, for much of its income.

The rebels, as well as traffickers, move easily across the border with Venezuela, greasing their way with bribes or, according to some investigators, through partnerships with the Venezuelan military.

A large portion of the cocaine that travels north toward the United States goes through Venezuela, according to American officials, often in small planes that load up and take off from hidden airstrips in the western Venezuelan state of Apure.

Venezualean efforts at interdicting the flow of drugs from Colombia are pathetic, which is why the U.S. government strongly suspects that the military and civilian authorities are faciiltating the drug trade by cozying up to FARC.  And in addition to being a rebel group, FARC has also been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department. 

Hugo Chávez kicked the DEA out of Venezuela in 2005, accusing the agency of spying.  The real reason was that the DEA was sniffing around the top echelons of power in Venezuela and beginning to put two and two together.  It's probable that dozens of civilian and military officials are being paid off by FARC, or profit directly from the drug trade.  Getting our hands on them in order to prosecute them is another story, but naming names would alert other Western countries and could lead to freezing assets and standing orders to arrest those Venezuelan officials responsible when they step outside their safe haven.

Top civilian and military officials of Venezuela are being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency for profiting from the drug trade.  One of the top targets is Diosdado Cabello, the National Assembly president, according to a source at DEA.

New York Times:

It is not clear what United States prosecutors plan to do with any evidence they may have collected on Mr. Cabello and others. The United States and Venezuela have long had strained relations, making it unlikely that the authorities in Caracas would hand over high-profile leaders if they were charged.

The prosecutors, however, could make it hard for anyone implicated to travel, and assets held abroad could be frozen. A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration declined to comment.

News of the investigation was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

“Those who accuse me today of drug trafficking, let them present one piece of evidence — just one, just one,” Mr. Cabello said on Venezuelan television on Tuesday, while surrounded by other legislators in the National Assembly.

“Our whole lives, we have been fighters for the new man and the new woman, and it would never occur to us to get involved in anything that could hurt the young people of Venezuela or the world,” Mr. Cabello said.

Mr. Cabello recently filed a defamation lawsuit in Venezuela against two newspapers and a website that ran articles about an aide’s cooperation with American investigators. United States officials have long charged that there are links between the Venezuelan military and drug traffickers. Those ties, according to the officials, include a close relationship with the largest guerrilla group in neighboring Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which relies on narcotics trafficking, particularly of cocaine, for much of its income.

The rebels, as well as traffickers, move easily across the border with Venezuela, greasing their way with bribes or, according to some investigators, through partnerships with the Venezuelan military.

A large portion of the cocaine that travels north toward the United States goes through Venezuela, according to American officials, often in small planes that load up and take off from hidden airstrips in the western Venezuelan state of Apure.

Venezualean efforts at interdicting the flow of drugs from Colombia are pathetic, which is why the U.S. government strongly suspects that the military and civilian authorities are faciiltating the drug trade by cozying up to FARC.  And in addition to being a rebel group, FARC has also been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department. 

Hugo Chávez kicked the DEA out of Venezuela in 2005, accusing the agency of spying.  The real reason was that the DEA was sniffing around the top echelons of power in Venezuela and beginning to put two and two together.  It's probable that dozens of civilian and military officials are being paid off by FARC, or profit directly from the drug trade.  Getting our hands on them in order to prosecute them is another story, but naming names would alert other Western countries and could lead to freezing assets and standing orders to arrest those Venezuelan officials responsible when they step outside their safe haven.