UPDATED: Washington’s indictment of Maduro and members of his inner circle has backfired and could lead to the arrest of coup leader Juan Guaidó, reports Leonardo Flores.
Editor’s Update: On Wednesday the U.S. announced it was sending a naval force to the Caribbean supposedly to combat drug trafficking coming from Venezuela. As this piece points out, relatively little drug traffic passes through Venezuela, raising concerns about what the force’s true mission is. In an article written for L’Antidiplomatico on Saturday, Pino Arlacchi, the former executive director of the UN’s Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention , wrote:
“I was also dumbfounded because I have been dealing with anti-drugs for forty years, and I have never met Venezuela along my way. Before, during and after my position as UNODC Executive Director (1997-2002), the UN drug program, I have never had the opportunity to visit that country because Venezuela has always been outside the major traffic circuits. of cocaine between Colombia, the main country, producer, and the USA, the main consumer.
Only in the sick fantasy of Trump and associates is there any illegal narcotic trade between Venezuela and the United States. Just consult the two most important sources on the subject, the latest UNODC report on drugs, and the latest document from the DEA, the American drug police, dated December 2019.”
The U.S. Navy is dispatching ships to protect Americans from narco-terrorists taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis.
Sec. Esper: "The illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela [relies] on…the sale of narcotics to maintain their oppressive hold on power." pic.twitter.com/ar6N080gP1
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) April 1, 2020
By Leonardo Flores
For 20 years, right wing extremists in Miami and Washington have been slandering the Venezuelan government, accusing it of drug trafficking and harboring terrorists without offering even a shred of evidence.
The item at the top of their wishlist was fulfilled on March 26, when the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled indictments against President Nicolás Maduro and 13 other current or former members of Venezuela’s government and military.
In addition to the indictments, Attorney General William Barr offered a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Maduro, as well as $10 million rewards for Diosdado Cabello (president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly), Tarek El Aissami (vice president for the economy), Hugo Carvajal (former director of military intelligence) and Cliver Alcalá (retired general).
The indictment has backfired already. Hours after the announcement, Alcalá posted videos online that threaten to cause further splits in the opposition and exposed a violent plot that could result in the arrest of Juan Guaidó. Before going into those details, however, it’s important to understand just how politically biased the charges are against Maduro et al.
The myth that Venezuela is a narco-state has already been debunked by the Washington Office in Latin America (WOLA), a think tank in Washington that generally supports U.S. regime change operations in the region, as well as by FAIR, 15 y Último, Misión Verdad, Venezuelanalysis and others. It cannot be denied that Venezuela is a transit country for cocaine, but as the maps above and below show, less than 7 percent of total drug movement from South America transits from Venezuela (the Eastern Caribbean region includes Colombia’s Guajira Peninsula). These maps, produced by the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Southern Command, respectively, immediately raise questions as to why Venezuela is the country being targeted.
Of course, the charges have nothing to do with the drug trade; they are the latest escalation in the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure March.” The pretext is an alleged plot by the Venezuelan government to flood the United States with “somewhere between 200-250 metric tons of cocaine.” Although that figure might seem high, it’s important to understand the context. The United States is the world’s biggest consumer of cocaine and Colombia is the world’s biggest producer. On the other hand, Venezuela does not cultivate coca, does not produce cocaine and, according to the U.S. government’s own figures, less than 10 percent of global cocaine traffic transits through the country.
For the sake of comparison, the U.S. agencies that provided Barr with the figure of “200-250 tons” also say that an average of nearly 2,400 tons of cocaine flowed through Colombia between 2016 and 2019 (Venezuela averaged 216 tons – 10 times less – in the same period). Colombia’s current president, Iván Duque, is a close ally of the country’s former president, Alvaro Uribe, who himself has been linked to drug trafficking. Almost exactly a year ago, President Donald Trump complained that “more drugs are coming out of Colombia right now than before” Duque was president, yet the U.S. continues giving millions in security aid to Colombia as part of its failed war on drugs.
The U.S double standard about narco-states is not limited to Colombia. Honduras’s U.S.-backed president, Juan Orlando Hernández, was linked to drug trafficking in a U.S. court, yet this news did not warrant a major announcement by the DOJ, presumably because Hernández is a U.S. ally. Another U.S. ally, Guatemala, had six times as much cocaine flow through its territory as Venezuela.
The indictments are another brick in the foundation for a pretext for either a direct U.S. military invasion or a proxy war using Colombian forces. There are obvious comparisons to 1989, when the U.S. put a $1 million bounty on Panamanian president Manuel Noriega, only to subsequently invade the country, causing an estimated 4,000 deaths.
The rewards the U.S. is offering for Maduro and four others are also troubling, as they have already been compared to a bounty. Maduro has survived at least one assassination attempt (in August 2018 when drones laden with explosives detonated prematurely), and the rewards could be interpreted as, at minimum, a “get out of jail free” card should someone succeed in murdering him. On the other hand, the rewards verify what the Venezuelan government has been saying all along: the U.S. is offering millions of dollars for people to turn on the country’s leadership.
Yet the Trump administration appears to have made a serious miscalculation by including the retired General Alcalá in the indictments. A former ally of ex-president Hugo Chávez, Alcalá joined the opposition in 2015 and has been linked to various coup plots and planned terror attacks since 2016. He is the highest profile former officer to turn against Maduro and is considered the “leader of pro-Guaidó military personnel.” Alcalá is now wanted both by the United States and by Venezuela.
Alcalá is implicated in a recent plot to attack the Maduro government. On March 24, Colombian authorities seized a truck full of weapons and military equipment, including 26 assault rifles, worth $500,000. Venezuelan intelligence services linked the weapons to three camps in Colombia where paramilitary groups of Venezuelan deserters and U.S. mercenaries are training to carry out attacks against Venezuela. According to Venezuela’s Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez, these groups were planning to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to attack military units and plant bombs. He also linked the groups to Alcalá.
These allegations proved to be correct, as Alcalá, in a video he posted online hours after the indictments, admitted that the weapons were under his command. He further admitted that the weapons were purchased with funds given to him by Juan Guaidó, with whom he allegedly signed a contract. Additionally, Alcala claimed that the operation was planned by U.S. advisers, with whom he supposedly met at least seven times. Aclalá also alleged that Leopoldo López, the founder of Guaidó’s party, Voluntad Popular, who was sprung from house arrest during Guaidó’s April 30 attempted insurrection, had full knowledge of the terror plot.
As a result of these videos, Venezuela’s attorney general has opened an investigation into Juan Guaidó for an attempted coup. Despite Guaidó’s self-proclamation as president in January 2019, his attempted insurrection in April 2019, his repeated calls for sanctions and a military invasion, Venezuelan authorities had refrained from moving against him. The U.S. indictments appear to have caused the Venezuelan government to issue its strongest response to the Trump administration’s and Guaidó’s continued provocations.
Of course, if the Trump administration were truly serious about combating terror, corruption and drug trafficking, the first Venezuelan they should look at ought to be Juan Guaidó. After all, he was photographed with members of the infamous Los Rastrojos drug cartel, who allegedly helped him cross into Colombia in exchange for his turning a blind eye to the cartel’s expansion from Colombia into western Venezuela. Guaidó’s team in Colombia embezzled humanitarian aid funds and now he has been directly implicated in a terror plot, one which presumably used money given to him by the United States (as that is his only source of financing).
The US regime has put a mafia-style bounty on the head of the elected leader of Venezuela and set the stage for a Panama-style intervention.
It seeks to install Juan Guaido, an unelected marionette who has worked hand in glove with the Los Rastrojos narco gang in Colombia. pic.twitter.com/Rt5sg8oN8Q
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) March 26, 2020
The revelations about Guaidó’s spending of U.S. funds to buy weapons and his alleged involvement in yet another violent plot are putting pressure on opposition figures and parties that have hinted at wanting to participate in this year’s legislative elections but have yet to fully commit to dialogue. A day before the U.S. indictments were revealed, Maduro invited several of these leaders to join a dialogue in the Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican’s embassy in Caracas) in order to try to reach consensus over the nation’s response to Covid-19. Now they are faced with the difficult choice of either angering Venezuelan voters (83 percent of whom reject a military option) by continuing to support Guaidó’s violence or angering the United States by working with indicted government officials.
The Trump administration has been sabotaging a negotiated solution to Venezuela’s problems for two years, including in February 2018, when it threatened an oil embargo and support for a coup during negotiations between the government and the opposition in the Dominican Republic, and again in August 2019, when it imposed a full embargo during another attempt at dialogue. These new indictments, which even The New York Timesdescribed as “highly unusual,” seemed timed to sabotage negotiations once again, as earlier in the week members of the moderate opposition, including National Assembly president Luis Parra, had recently urged the U.S. to lift the sanctions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet another blunder with the indictments is that the Trump administration is sending contradictory messages. On the one hand, it has spent three years urging high level Venezuelan government and military officials to defect, promising space to operate politically after a transition government comes into power. On the other, it has indicted the most high-profile member of the military who has defected, Cliver Alcalá, on serious charges of narcoterrorism.
The brazenness of the indictments in attempting to cast Venezuela as a narco-state, the lack of foresight regarding possible repercussions, the attempted sabotage of dialogue and the mixed messaging are all signals that the Trump administration is desperate to ensure its regime change policy shows results. The victims of this policy are the Venezuelan people, who would be much better off with a policy of de-escalation, dialogue and a removal of the deadly sanctions.
Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CODEPINK.
This article is from The Grayzone.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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Who the hell do we think we are? I think the rest of the world should put a bounty on Trumps head – let’s see how he likes it.
With an administration pursuing the aims of the oil industry it’s not surprising. Venzuelan heavy crude makes a perfect match with light fracked oil produced domestically. The mixture can be used in every US refinery and you don’t have to go halfway around the world waving guns and angering Middle Eastern people to do it – just Venezuelans
Susan yiou are spot one here.
But how can we be sure that hasn’t happened. I’m hoping at least.
I’m those of us still sane have had enough of this guys BS to do us for two life times.
But removing Trump will not solve our problems believe me, ever hear of the democrats and the republicans.
We sure as hell are not hearing anything from these individuals elected to represent us are we. That is because they are cowards. If not we need to see some proof. from them. Now!
Greed over scarce resources. Drive the price down so supply doesn’t reflect demand
Contrary to what you may seem to be seeing I’m pretty sure I don’t have any Nazi Plague residing anywhere in my person, although maybe I do have some pretty crude thoughts about what I might do to Trump and his black and tan boot licking supporters and those who lust for a totalitarian government .
That bunch seem to hover being around 30-35 % of the population. But I have no interest in practicing genocide on them. Hanging a few of them like was done at the Nuremburg trails might be more appropriate.
I’m still not sure Gary Webb committed suicide. I’d think that to shoot yourself with a .38 special revolver twice in the head might not be a possibility. I would think that with the first shot, even if that the first shot went through his cheeks, the concussion might knock one unconscious, maybe not but! Also Micheal Ruppert seemed to substantiate Gary Webb’s claim even if the DEA didn’t.
That said I’m very confident that Danny Casolaro didn’t kill himself. Check out his theory on the Octopus story. Or Colonel Sabo who is supposed to have killed himself while stationed at the El Toro Marine Air Station located in Orange County California. Lots of people known to each other, although not necessarily known to every other person in that group ended up dead that is for sure. There are reasons why Bill Barr recommended pardons for Contra personnel tot hen Pres. bushie 41.
Something you might not know, July 1, 1973 was the beginning of the DEA, and according to many sources many of it’s new employees crossed over from the CIA after the Halloween Massacre, a massive reduction in force ended Bill Colyby’s reign there and none other than bushie 41 took over for about one year. The fix was still in, bu=irds of a feather stick together you know.
Yes you are right though I have no respect for the criminal element but it’s very obvious some like Barr do!
Show no quarter to those purveyors of dastardly deeds, the present SUPREME LEADER and his minions included
A billion dollars and two cents. The billion $ bounty is only paid if the Hague gets the bushies before they get the supreme leader.
That two cents is for the Supreme Leaders worthless ass but it must be a package deal only.
Being Real Here
Some people may recall Gary Webb, investigative reporter for the California newspaper, The Mercury News, who gained much attention from his August, 1996 series about cocaine trafficking for nearly a decade between Colombia and urban America. He linked it to the CIA, but appears not to have given adequate substantiation for this claim; though I would not necessarily trust the official refutations. What is relevant here is the reference to Colombia, not Venezuela.
As an interesting aside, I found through Wikipedia that Webb was born in Corona, California. That made me think of the coronavirus, and Albert Camus’s metaphorical link between physical disease and moral corruption described in The Plague, his novel about a fictional bubonic plague in Oran, Algeria. It was meant to recall to discerning readers the real Nazi plague. The plague lies dormant in everyone. Today it is manifested by unconcern about flimsy justifications for military action against Maduro.
Articles by Robert Parry about Gary Webb and their collaboration can be found on
the Consortium News website through our search engine.
I have been told that I am exhibiting “white privilege” by insisting on a “purity test” that excludes politicians who back our violent foreign policy. They believe what the US does overseas has no moral or economic impact on what happens at home
VENEZUELA ? Of course it’s all B.S! That is all this idiot is good for. One bullshit story after another, geeze can you imagine the smell of this guys breath?
I cannot help myself at times!
While it is definitively the case that the Trump administration is pursuing not only the coup in Venezuela, but renewed threats against Iran, some of the commenters seem unaware of or refuse to see the obvious. Specifically, that this operation could have been predicted. Right on cue, just as President Trump renews dialogue with Presidents XI and Putin, and negotiates cooperation and aid packages to fight COVID-19. the neocons, especially Popeo, O’Brien and Esper, have rallied to thwart that effort. The split within the administration is in the open and should be clear to any unbiased observer, and represents an inflection point in our foreign policy. Which way Trump ultimately goes is largely up to the American people. who like their representatives, have largely been silent on the matters at hand.
The political implications of this ‘indictment’ aside, I find it rich that the world’s arguably biggest drug dealer – the US government, in the form of the CIA – has the unmitigated gall to cast indictments at foreign governments. Drug money is likely the largest portion of the CIA’s operating budget. Does anybody in official Washington ever look at the hypocrisy of their policies? Apparently not.
This would be utterly laughable if not for the possible implications.
Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CODEPINK.
ALL I need to know
Hmm. So, can you elaborate? Please?
Waiting for Shawn Craig’s illuminating response. I like to be informed, not agitated.
The US clearly doesn’t have any evidence or they wouldn’t be offering a bounty for information leading to President Maduro’s arrest, unless saying “he’s in the presidential palace” would garner a reward.
GHW Bush & the CIA’s long standing relationship with General Noriega was ample evidence that he was involved in drug trafficking, although they used a spurious unrelated pretext to launch the invasion of Panama to arrest him – never has a drug bust had so much collateral damage – a whole neighborhood taken out, thousands of deaths…
This is what “full spectrum idiocy” looks like.
Absolutely spot on.
Check out the link generated when you plug in to your favorite browser the following:
Former Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Pino Arlacchi reminded
Bad job. Did you ever hear of Project Cassandra
Gotta remember Koch-Flint Hills Industries in this. The Kochtopus has been the sole U.S. refinery for VZA’s heavy oil in Texas. (Same destination for Keystone XL Alberta Tar Sands crud(e) when and if it is ever finished.) Koch also owns a huge fertilizer plant in VZA.
With 75 of Trump’s top government hires / appointees coming out of the Koch machine, and the election approaching, I’m thinking Charlie Koch wants to see some action now rather than later, as Trump could yet actually lose, and then Mook Plumpeo would no longer be our gawdawful Secretary of State.
And Plumpeo is every bit as much, if not more a Kochhead, as he is “down for Jesus H. Christ,” and that’s ‘down’ down. The remaining Kochs are up to their necks in this cesspool.
Koch owned only 35% of the fertilizer plant and it was nationalized in 2010, no doubt angering Koch.
“FertiNitro (Fertilizantes Nitrogenados de Oriente) is Venezuela’s largest fertilizer company, producing around 1.5m tons of urea per year. It was nationalised in October 2010, having previously been owned by Pequiven (35%) and Koch Industries (35%)”—Wikipedia.
True. Corpus Christi, Texas is where those refineries are. The Port of Corpus Christi is in process of destrouing major wetlands and estuaries to dredge a deepwater port for the Venezuela heavy crude.
This hatred of Venezuela for daring to be sovereign and independent and actually have a government for the people has continued with bipartisan support for over twenty years. The present sanctions, started under Obama in 2014, have reduced the income into Venezuela by 90%, and now this is another level. The appointment of war criminal Eliot Abrams as special adviser is mocking any idea of fairness, yet the “sanctions” continue as if the terrible pandemic does not exist. Why is the USA allowed to get away with this behavior? The EU seems to support the lie of “illegitimate government” of Maduro, as if the US régime has any legitimacy or right to challenge anyone else.
As a thought experiment, what would the US reaction to a bounty on Trump look like?
Well, if the “Hague Invasion Act” of 2002 is any indication…
Excellent essay and insight, Sr Flores.
Venezuela has oil deposits.
usa imperialists/imperialism have/has no legal reason to be in SA.
Keep investigating and reporting.
My God, doesn’t the world have enough pain and misery already?
America’s government busies itself with creating still more, and in the midst of a pandemic it has blunderingly handled.
I don’t see how it’s possible to imagine a more inept and corrupt government than America’s .
The United States government is incompetent to wield the kind of power that it possesses. It is powerful but neither wise nor strong.
true and our “leaders” for many decades have been too weak to stand up for what’s right.
That’s left to whistle blowers.
Just watched “The Report” recommended here a few months ago FWIW available free on amazon prime of all places.
The DNC orchestrates a coup rollout on the one candidate, Bernie Sanders, who has backbone and the vision to have warned us 15 years ago to be prepared for a pandemic.
The lead guy on that coup is the dem whip who helped whip up the coup….
For decades (some might say hundreds of years), the US has blundered its way through the world looking for resources to plunder without ever considering the consequences – indeed, without ever having to. Now the US has entered a new era, when the consequences of its machinations are beginning to be felt – and felt sooner rather than later. A bad day for Americans; a very good day for everyone else.
Not a bad day for all U.S. Americans. Lots of face-egg on those promulgating or buying-in to the bullshit though.
Talking about hundreds of years, you may have seen Daniel Immerwahr’s “How to Hide an Empire” 2020 tracing U.S. expansion back to Guano Islands using an innovative mapping technique – very interesting revealing book. Waterboarding by military went back to Philippines during that horrific occupation.
It appears that once more premature ejaculations disappoint.
There are two positive attributes to President Trump: 1/ Trump is honest about the ‘crude’ motives behind America’s violent foreign policy. He just comes out and says that it is about the oil. 2/. Trump is an oafish incompetent war criminal.
What bounty should the ICC place on Trump’s wanted poster? The “sheriff” is far dirtier than the guys in black hats.
And, not to seem partisan, let me say that the Clintons, Dubya and Obomber should also be brought to the dock at the Hague for their many crimes against humanity.
What is, and what should never be… How do we get it all wrong so consistently?