Federal prosecutors on Thursday accused Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro of participating in a “narco-terrorism conspiracy” and drug smuggling into the United States.
The accusation carries a minimum of 50 years behind bars. Attorney General William Barr announced the charges at the Justice Department in Washington with some officials in attendance and others connected via teleconference. The charges involve 15 defendants, including Maduro and other political and military leaders in Venezuela. Venezuela also is accused of permitting Colombians linked with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to use its airspace to fly cocaine north through Central America to destinations in North America. The Justice Department officials said Maduro and the others had broken U.S. law.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York claimed that the illicit cooperation between the Colombians and Venezuelans had been in place for over 20 years. There were months of pressure by President Trump's administration on Maduro's regime, which the United States considers illegitimate. More than 100 other countries no longer recognize Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela. The State Department has offered a $15 million reward for the capture of Maduro.