In a bold move sure to further destabilize very unsteady ties between the U.S. and Venezuela, U.S. prosecutors are preparing to disclose drug trafficking charges to be made against the head of Venezuela’s National Guard.
According to Reuters, Nestor Reverol is named in a sealed indictment pending in federal court in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to heading the Guard, Reverol is the former head of Venezuela’s anti-narcotics agency and a long-time ally of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. Reuters reported he would be one of the highest-ranking Venezuelan officials—and the only one currently in office—to face US drug charges.
Venezuela is neighbor to Colombia, which recently regained the number one spot on the list of the world’s top cocaine producers. Colombian narco-terrorists like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and cartels like the Urabeños produce or control the majority of cocaine in Colombia, and much of that flows into the hands of Mexican drug cartels for transport to the U.S. via the southwest border.
The U.S. State Department said in its 2015 narcotics control report that Venezuela has become one of the main transit routes for illegal drugs from South America due to the country’s porous border with neighboring Colombia, its “weak judicial system, sporadic international counter narcotics cooperation, and permissive and corrupt environment.” According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, up to 25 percent of all cocaine exported from South America in 2011 departed from Venezuela.
U.S. authorities have been investigating Venezuela officials’ involvement in the drug trade for some time. In October 2015, Breitbart Texas reported the unsealing of indictments against two former top Venezuelan police officials. Relatives of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores have been suspected of trafficking ties, and former DEA official Mike Vigil told Reuters members of Venezuela’s National Guard have been heavily involved in the drug trade. “The National Guard has been key to opening up the doors into Venezuela for Colombian drug trafficking organizations and subversive groups,” said Vigil. “They have transformed Venezuela into a massive pipeline for cocaine into the United States and Europe.”
Currently, it is unclear what form the drug trafficking charges against Reverol will take. No one in his administration, the Venezuelan National Guard, or in the U.S. prosecutor’s office is responding to requests for comment. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro dismisses charges of official involvement in drug trafficking as an international right-wing campaign to discredit socialism in Venezuela. However, Maduro’s faction in the Venezuelan government was hit hard recently during mid-term elections, as the opposition took clear control of the country’s legislature. The U.S. and Venezuelan governments have frequently been at odds over political differences and human rights issues. U.S. officials have said that past drug arrests of Venezuelan VIPs were not an effort to go after Maduro’s government, but a case of U.S. law enforcement seeking to prosecute suspected wrongdoing.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.