USA to Indict Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro for 'Narco-terrorism': Senator

Trump administration to designate Venezuela as state sponsor of terrorism and charge President Maduro, sources say

Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, has been indicted on USA federal drug-trafficking charges, a major escalation in the Trump administration's campaign to force Maduro from power, according to a federal official briefed on the matter.

The U.S. State Department said it is offering a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro's arrest, along with $10 million for some of his top deputies, including his former Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who has previously been designated by the Treasury Department as a "kingpin" for his role in narcotrafficking. Separate charges were filed against the country's defense minister and head of the supreme court.

The Southern District of NY announced on Twitter it will be holding a news conference at 11 a.m.to announce "significant law enforcement actions related to Venezuelan government officials" where the charges against Maduro and others are expected to be announced. "This cabal lines their pockets with drug money, and this has to come to an end".

The charges allege concerted efforts in the trafficking of drugs, largely cocaine, in conjunction with the Colombian FARC group.

"We estimate that somewhere between 200 and 250 metric tons of cocaine are shipped out of Venezuela by these routes", Barr said, adding that the shipments were equivalent to 30 million lethal doses of drugs.

The charges include narco-terrorism conspiracy, cocaine importation conspiracy and weapons possession conspiracy.

According to the New York Times, the head of the U.S. Justice Department's Criminal Division in Washington and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami were expected to announce the charges via live-stream on Thursday morning.

About US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) worth of cocaine, about a quarter of what is produced in Colombia in a year, passes through Venezuela before making its way to other countries last year, according to Jeremy McDermott, co-founder of Insight Crime, a research group that studies organized crime.

Washington has supported alternative political leaders in Caracas against Maduro and Trump invited the leader he recognizes as Venezuela's leader, Juan Guaidó, to the State of the Union address this year.

The US' chances of actually arresting and prosecuting Maduro are slim, though Barr did say that the Justice Department is "exploring all options" when it comes to apprehending the Venezuelan leader.

Barr said the United States would "explore all options" to put the accused Venezuelan leaders in custody.

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