Venezuela’s First Lady: DEA ‘Kidnapped’ Drug-Smuggling Nephews

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Venezuela’s First Lady, Cilia Flores, has accused the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of “committ[ing] the crime of kidnapping” against her nephews, both charged with attempting to traffic cocaine into New York.

“The DEA committed the crime of kidnapping which, in any case, the defense is tasked with proving,” Flores told the national news outlet Tal Cual this week. She said the Venezuelan government was collecting evidence that the DEA “was meddling here on Venezuelan territory, violating our sovereignty and committing crimes on our land.” Flores, who is also a legislator representing the state of Cojedes in the National Assembly, claimed the arrest of her nephews – Francisco Flores de Freitas y Efraín Campo Flores – was intended to disrupt the nation’s legislative elections in December (the two were arrested in November 2015). “At the time, we were going towards an electoral process with myself as a candidate, and they wanted to get us out, but they failed. I won showing my face,” she argued.

Flores cut her comments short, arguing that “we have to respect that there is a [legal] process,” but not before accusing the United States, “the CIA, the DEA” of acting “in vengeance” against her nephews.

These remarks were the first Flores has said of the cases since the arrest of her nephews in November. Campo Flores and Flores de Freitas were detained in Haiti for attempting to sell 800 kilograms of cocaine to a DEA agent, with the intent of distributing it in New York. They are currently under arrest in New York City.

Campo Flores identified himself as the First Lady’s “stepson,” claiming she had raised him as a child. The two have allegedly cooperated with authorities, claiming initially that the cocaine they possessed belonged to Diosdado Cabello, the former National Assembly President, and later claiming they received it from Tarek El Aissami, Venezuela’s head of Islamic Relations.

Cabello, who lost his position has the nation’s second in command in the National Assembly in December, is currently under investigation by American officials after a defecting former Hugo Chávez body guard signaled him as the head of the Cartel de los Soles, one of Latin America’s most lucrative cocaine smuggling outfits.

President Nicolás Maduro has not been implicated directly in selling cocaine on the continent, though former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under George W. Bush, Roger Noriega, has accused Maduro of funding his last presidential campaign with drug money he received from Cabello.

This week, Maduro aide William Amaro was accused in a Nuevo Herald investigation of receiving more than $200,000 funneled into Venezuela through drug smugglers, a claim the Maduro administration is vehemently denying.

Campo Flores and Flores de Freitas have pleaded not guilty in their New York case and await trial.