Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro responded to the U.S. Department of Justice branding him a narco-terrorist on Thursday and offering a $15 million reward for information leading to his capture by branding the move “extravagant, extremist, and vulgar.”
Maduro posted a message on Twitter in which he claimed “maximum morale” among his peers — two of whom, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) chief Diosdado Cabello and natural resources minister Tareck El Aissami, were also the target of Justice Department rewards — and denied the accusations against him.
Maduro, Cabello, and El Aissami have all faced charges of drug trafficking and helping line the pockets of terrorist organizations, notably Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). El Aissami is considered one of Hezbollah’s greatest fundraisers in Latin America; Cabello is believed to be the head of the Cartel de los Soles, a cocaine trafficking syndicate.
“The government of the U.S., in an extravagant, extremist, and vulgar action, made a series of false accusations, putting a price on the head of revolutionaries who are willing to combat them on all terrains and continue to defeat them,” Maduro wrote, posting a photo of himself receiving applause from several of his trustworthy cronies, including Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and El Aissami. “Maximum morale here!”
El gobierno de los EE.UU. en una acción extravagante, extremista y vulgar, hizo un conjunto de acusaciones falsas, colocando precio a la cabeza de revolucionarios que estamos dispuestos a combatirlos en todos los terrenos y seguirlos derrotando. ¡Máxima Moral Hay Aquí! pic.twitter.com/BEHNvugfLj
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 27, 2020
On Friday, Maduro put out another demand on Twitter for his armed forces — which experts believe make up many of the capos of the Cartel de los Soles — to “be on alert before conspiracies and terrorist groups who seek to generate violence in Venezuela, without disregarding the combat we are engaging in for the health of all.” Maduro regularly accuses government who do not acknowledge his leadership of the country — he ceased to be the legitimate president of Venezuela in January 2019 — of participating in terrorism, particularly Colombia.
Llamo a la FANB y a todo el pueblo a estar alertas ante las conspiraciones y los grupos terroristas que pretenden generar violencia en Venezuela, sin descuidar el combate que estamos dando por la la salud de todas y todos. ¡Nadie nos va a sacar de ese camino! ¡Juntos Venceremos! pic.twitter.com/m9zK6LP35I
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 27, 2020
Separately, Maduro declared the United States a “threat to the public health” of the Western Hemisphere because of its growing number of Chinese coronavirus cases. Venezuela also has a mounting toll of coronavirus cases, as does most of the world. Unlike the United States, however, Venezuela has no functional healthcare system as a result of the destruction of its formerly capitalist system under Maduro and predecessor Hugo Chávez.
“The United States is a public health threat to Latin America and the Caribbean. … We hope that, sooner rather than later, they find a way to control the pandemic that has taken off and is out of control in the United States,” Maduro said.
“There’s no model right now, no reality on the ground, where we can see that 60-70 percent of Americans are going to get infected in the next 10-12 weeks,” Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House task force on coronavirus response said on Thursday, adding there was “no evidence” of equipment shortages in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases.
Maduro’s “foreign minister,” Jorge Arreaza, also issued a statement condemning the American government for holding Maduro accountable, calling the reward offer a “new coup d’etat.” Maduro has consistently accused multiple American officials of plotting coups against him, with no evidence.
“Offering a reward like the racist cowboys of the wild west shows desperation,” Arreaza declared.
Cabello’s PSUV issued a statement as a party condemning the move and defending its leaders, calling the charges by the Justice Department “another imperialist aggression against our Fatherland and our people.”
“This is a gigantic defamation against a good part of the fundamental leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution,” the Party asserted. “Every day that goes by, the moral superiority of the Bolivarian, Socialist, Chavista Revolution and its material realizations over capitalism become clearer.”
The charges facing Maduro as of Thursday are new, though Cabello and El Aissami have faced similar accusations for years. The DEA published wanted posters for Maduro and Cabello with their rewards posted in bright red letters in the hopes of receiving information that can lead to their arrest.
— Gabriel Bastidas (@Gbastidas) March 26, 2020
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published a similar poster of El Aissami in August, asking of a government official that regularly appears on state television, “Have you seen this most wanted fugitive?”
— ICE (@ICEgov) July 31, 2019
“He facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that left from a Venezuelan air base and drug routes through the ports in Venezuela,” ICE stated in its “most wanted” profile of the man in charge of Venezuela’s prodigious natural resources. “In his previous positions, he oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States.”