The United States will bring formal drug trafficking charges against a number of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials, including multiple generals, a Spanish news source reported.
Two federal prosecutors told ABC, a leading newspaper in Spain, that the U.S. did not want to be seen as influencing the recent parliamentary elections in the South American country and for that reason are holding off on announcing the charges for a few more days.
The newspaper also stated that these charges are not connected to the recent drug trafficking arrests of two nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who are set to face trial in the United States on Dec. 17.
No evidence has been made public that directly links Maduro to the drug trade, but his two nephews, Efraín Antonio Campos Flores and Francisco Flores de Freites, reportedly told the Drug Enforcement Administration that they were acting in connection with Diosdado Cabello, speaker of the National Assembly, and former Venezuelan Minister of the Interior Tareck el Aissami — both close allies of the president.
ABC reported that the new charges were based largely on the testimony of alleged Colombian drug traffickers detained by U.S. authorities, who gave details about how the Venezuelan military facilitated the shipment of cocaine through the country.
While this is not the first time Venezuelan officials have been rumored as involved in the drug trade – a major from the country’s army reserve was caught with 667 kg of cocaine in a small aircraft in 1983 – experts say government involvement began to flourish under the late President Hugo Chavez and continued under the command of Maduro.
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal published a report – citing the U.S. Justice Department – that said an investigation by federal prosecutors in New York and Miami and a DEA unit found "extensive evidence" to suggest Speaker Cabello was one of the heads of a suspected trafficking cartel involving military officers and top government officials.
News of the new drug trafficking charges comes days after Maduro and the rest of the Chavista loyalists suffered their worst electoral defeat in recent memory.
The National Electoral Council confirmed earlier this week that the opposition gathered under Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) obtained the 112 seats needed to get the supermajority.
It is the first time the opposition has wielded power since Chavez kicked off the nation’s socialist revolution in 1999.
Maduro announced that he would arrange a meeting with the elected congressmen to speak about the country’s economic situation. However, opposition leaders spoke in strident terms, a prelude to what's likely to be a period of intense political fighting in a deeply polarized country mired in an economic crisis.