The Trump administration on Thursday loaded Nicolás Maduro and 14 other senior Venezuelan officials with narcoterrorism, drug trafficking, corruption and other crimes, accusing them of using cocaine as a "weapon" to "flood the United States".
Two Federal accusations Unsealed Thursday claims that Maduro and current current officials in his regime have partnered with dissidents from the FARC – a violent rebel group in Colombia – for 20 years to engage in drug trafficking, causing "tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities ".
The Justice Department claimed that Maduro and other officials "expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine our nation's health and well-being."
"Maduro deliberately distributed cocaine as a weapon," said US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman on Thursday. "As alleged, the accused betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted the Venezuelan institutions to fill their pockets with drug money."
The US government is offering a reward of up to $ 15 million for information leading to Maduro's arrest.
Seated foreign leaders usually enjoy diplomatic immunity in other countries, but the United States and dozens of other nations recognize the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as legitimate president of Venezuela. The charges against Maduro call him "ex-president".
The accusations against Maduro are the biggest escalation of US efforts to overthrow Maduro's socialist government, a month after Trump called he "an illegitimate ruler" and a "tyrant" whose "rule of tyranny will be crushed and broken", during his State of the Union address.
The Maduro regime is "flooded with crime and corruption," Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday.
The charges allege that Maduro and his employees led and managed a drug trafficking organization called the "Cartel of the Suns".
The cartel "sought not only to enrich its members and increase its power, but also to flood the United States with cocaine and to inflict the harmful and addictive effects of the drug on users in the United States," the Justice Department said.
Barr addressed the decision to prosecute Maduro during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that Venezuelans were "suffering" and accused Maduro's government of blocking essential supplies.
Barr said that the best way to support the people of Venezuela would be to "free the country from this corrupt cabal".