LATIN AMERICA

US to charge Venezuelan National Guard chief with drug trafficking

Néstor Reverol’s name appears in an indictment issued by a New York judge, Reuters reports

A file photo of Reverol, taken in 2010.
A file photo of Reverol, taken in 2010.CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS / REUTERS

American prosecutors are preparing to announce drug-trafficking charges against Venezuelan National Guard chief Néstor Reverol, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing sources close to the investigation.

According to the news agency, Reverol’s name appears in the sealed indictment issued by a Brooklyn federal district judge. The charges and date of announcement remain unknown, and a spokesman for the judge declined to comment on the case.

Reverol could become the first Venezuelan senior official in office accused of drugs crimes by the US

Reverol, the former head of the Venezuelan anti-drug trafficking agency, had close ties to the late President Hugo Chávez. If the charges are confirmed, Reverol will become the first Venezuelan senior official in office accused of drugs-related crimes by the United States.

Reverol’s possible indictment comes at a time when US prosecutors are opening more and more investigations into the roles of Venezuelan officials in cocaine trafficking. In the last four years, at least five former high-ranking officials have been accused of drug trafficking, according to court documents filed in New York and Florida.

In mid-November, a New York federal district court accused two nephews of Venezuelan First Lady Cilia Flores of conspiring to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

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In May 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States was investigating half-a-dozen high-ranking Venezuelan officials – including Reverol and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello – for alleged narco-trafficking and money laundering.

That investigation also included Aragua state Governor and former Interior Minister Tareck el Aissami, and ex-chief of military intelligence, Hugo Carvajal. In 2008, the United States accused Carvajal of participating in drug-trafficking schemes with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Reverol, who also served as interior minister in the past, is the director of the Venezuelan army’s border security division. In the last few years, he has rejected criticism from Washington, saying that Venezuela has not done enough to stop drug trafficking.

According to the White House, Venezuela exported a quarter of all of the cocaine produced in South America in 2011.

According to the White House, Venezuela exported a quarter of all of the cocaine produced in South America in 2011

The US State Department’s annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report says Venezuela has become a major drug-transit country “due to its porous western border with Colombia,” the largest producer of cocaine in the world, “weak judicial system, sporadic international counter-narcotics cooperation, and permissive and corrupt environment.”

The Venezuelan opposition has long been accusing the government of looking the other way when it comes to the military’s involvement in drug trafficking.

Outgoing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has attributed these allegations to an international right-wing campaign against his socialist platform. His party maintains that the fight against drug trafficking has improved since Venezuela expelled US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) staff from the country.

English version by Dyane Jean Francois.

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