Trump administration puts $15 million bounty on head of Venezuelan strongman Maduro
by Joel Gehrke
March 26, 2020 10:46 AM
President Trump’s administration is offering a $15 million reward for information that leads to the arrest of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, who was indicted by the U.S. Thursday on charges related to the regime’s use of “cocaine as a weapon” against Americans.
“The Venezuelan people deserve a transparent, responsible, representative government that serves the needs of the people – and that does not betray the trust of the people by condoning or employing public officials that engage in illicit narcotics trafficking,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a bulletin touting the reward.
Justice Department officials indicted four other senior Maduro regime associates, including former vice president Tareck El Aissami. The charges build on sanctions imposed on El Aissami in 2017. The State Department is offering up to $10 million of reward money for each of those four officials.
“While holding key positions in the Maduro regime, these individuals violated the public trust by facilitating shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, including control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, as well as control of drug routes through the ports in Venezuela,” Pompeo said.
The Washington Examiner originally reported, citing CNN, that Maduro’s regime would be branded a state sponsor of terrorism. CNN has acknowledged that its reporting was incorrect, and so this story has been updated to reflect that the designation was not made.
Yet the Justice Department emphasized that the drug charges hinge on the Maduro regime’s partnership with the FARC, a militant group in Colombia that has been designated as a foreign terrorist group and derives financing from drug trade.
“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement accompanying the indictments. “As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation. Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon.”