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U.S. senators ask Justice Department to probe drug trafficking ties to Venezuelan government

January 28, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
U.S. senators ask Justice Department to probe drug trafficking ties to Venezuelan government

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Two ranking U.S. senators on Wednesday requested that the Department of Justice investigate accusations of drug trafficking by senior Venezuelan government officials tied to President Nicolas Maduro’s administration, as the country continues to grapple with an economic crisis.

In a letter written to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senator Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez revealed their concerns about potential connections between Maduro’s administration and drug cartels and asked for an investigation “to better understand the nexus between criminal actors and members of Maduro’s circle.”

Despite the fact that Venezuela is a significant oil producing country, the country is enduring a severe economic and social crisis, with millions suffering from shortages of food and medicine, along with issues of hyperinflation and increasing insecurity.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, (right) and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey have asked the Justice Department to increase pressure against the Venezuelan government’s drug trafficking ties

Rubio serves as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s western hemisphere subcommittee, and Menendez is its ranking Democrat. Both leading lawmakers have openly criticized the Venezuelan government.

In their request, the Senators revealed concerns that the situation in Venezuela could destabilize the area, the Washington Examiner reported.

Maduro has previously refused allegations about drug trafficking links as a smear campaign carried out by Washington, noting that the U.S. is to blame for the drug business because it is such a large market for illegal drugs.

In August 2016, a U.S. District Court announced the indictment of Nestor Reverol, who serves as Venezuela’s interior minister, on charges of taking part in an international cocaine trafficking conspiracy.

Venezuela’s Interior Minister Nestor Reverol (right) and Vice President  Vice President Tareck el-Aissam both face drug trafficking charges in the U.S.

Last February, the U.S. Treasury Department implemented sanctions against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck el-Aissami for drug trafficking and other related offenses.

And this past December, two nephews of Maduro’s wife, Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, were found guilty in U.S. federal court for narcotics smuggling.

The European Union also revealed new sanctions on several senior Venezuelan figures, including Reverol, indicating that this was an expression of the bloc’s concern with the political upheaval under Maduro.

Rubio and Menendez also requested Sessions to back efforts by the Organization of American States to address human rights interests in Venezuela.

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