On March 26, the United States Department of Justice charged Venezuela's former President, Nicolás Maduro, and 14 members of his inner circle with narco-terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption. During a press conference to announce the charges, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said that “For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the [The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a terrorist group also known as] FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.”
At the same time, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced a 15-million-dollar reward for information leading to Nicolas Maduro's arrest and/or conviction through the Department of State’s Narcotics Rewards Program.
Venezuela, under the former and now illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro, has for many years been a major drug transit country and is still one of the preferred trafficking routes in the Western Hemisphere for illegal drugs, according to the 2019 State Department International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
The narcotics report cited Venezuela’s “porous border with Colombia, weak judicial system, almost nonexistent international drug control cooperation, and permissive and corrupt environment” as providing “ideal conditions for drug trafficking operations and associated violence.”
“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges,” said U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman:
“As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation. Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon. While Maduro and other cartel members held lofty titles in Venezuela’s political and military leadership, the conduct described in the Indictment wasn’t statecraft or service to the Venezuelan people. As alleged, the defendants betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted Venezuelan institutions to line their pockets with drug money.”
“Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government,” said Attorney General Barr. “The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.”