Wanted: Nicolas Maduro

Today the Department of Justice indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and 14 of his close associates on drug trafficking charges:

The U.S. indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for drug trafficking on Thursday, offering a $15 million reward for information leading to his arrest, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on an adversary it has sought to push aside.

The U.S. also indicted 14 key Maduro associates, including former Vice President Diosdado Cabello, offering $10 million for information leading to their arrests. Charges were filed against the country’s defense minister, chief justice and superintendent of cryptocurrency.

Apparently the socialist regime’s involvement in the drug trade has long been known:

The charges allege a conspiracy involving the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a terrorist group that [Attorney General William] Barr said was determined to “flood the U.S. with cocaine.” He said that Maduro’s regime gives the FARC, as the group is known, authority to fly drug-filled planes over Venezuelan airspace and safely manufacture cocaine on its territory.

“We estimate that somewhere between 200 and 250 metric tons of cocaine are shipped out of Venezuela by these routes,” Barr said, adding that the shipments were equivalent to 30 million lethal doses of drugs.
Some $2 billion worth of cocaine, about a quarter of what was produced in Colombia last year, passed through Venezuela before making its way to other countries, according to Jeremy McDermott, co-founder of Insight Crime, a research group that studies organized crime. He called it a fairly typical year for the traffic.

There’s evidence that the criminal groups that transport these drugs have infiltrated Venezuelan government security forces, forming a network known as the ‘Cartel of the Suns’ to facilitate the passage of illicit drugs into and out the country, according to a 2019 report by the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board.

President Trump is to be commended for keeping up the pressure on criminal regimes in Venezuela and Iran. Is the indictment of Maduro entirely symbolic? Maybe, but the precedent of Manuel Noriega comes to mind. Attorney General Barr comments:

“We do expect to eventually gain custody of these defendants,” Barr said of Maduro and his indicted aides.

Let’s hope so.