The US State Department announced rewards for information leading to the arrest of the Venezuelan president and several other politicians. After failing to unseat Maduro last year, the US is now accusing him of narco-terrorism.
The announcement came after the Justice Department unsealed indictments against the Venezuelan president and his officials, filed by prosecutors in Miami and New York.
The State Department offered the $15 million bounty for Maduro on Thursday, along with rewards of up to $10 million each for information on five Venezuelan political and military leaders. Together, the officials are accused of “facilitating shipments of narcotics from Venezuela” by air and sea.
“The Maduro regime is awash with corruption and criminality,” Attorney General William Barr said at a press conference on Thursday. “This cabal lines their pockets with drug money, and this has to come to an end.”
Barr did not provide any evidence of drug seizures, but claimed the US authorities have observed the trafficking operation at work in Central America.
The indictments – filed against a sitting head of state – are a bold move. Yet Washington has spent more than a year attempting to remove Maduro from power. After Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself ‘interim president’ last January, Washington was quick to recognize him as the Latin American country’s legitimate leader. Rounds of sanctions against the Maduro government followed, and military action was at one point rumored.
Maduro, however, kept the loyalty of his police and military, and remains in power in Caracas.
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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. Short of arranging his kidnapping by the Venezuelan opposition, Barr only said that the US authorities could strike while Maduro and his associates are traveling, itself a remote possibility amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.
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