Venezuelan President Maduro’s nephews arrested for cocaine smuggling to the US

Two relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have been arrested in Haiti as accused of smuggling 800 kg of cocaine in the United States. The two men, Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, are nephews of Cilia Flores, Venezuela’s first lady and one of the most powerful figures in the Government, who had been president of the National Assembly from 2009 to 2011.

According to the US authorities, this operation had been going on for more than eight months: the two men allegedly contacted a DEA undercover agent in Honduras, asking for support to transit a load of 800 kg of cocaine through a Honduran island in the Caribbean and then transport it to the United States. The two men were arrested on Tuesday in Port-au-Prince by local police, turned over to DEA agents and flown to the US the same day.

Although this is not the first time members of the inner circle of the presidential family have been accused of criminal acts (Flores herself was accused of corruption when she put many of her relatives in important positions within the government), this is the first time the accusations include drug smuggling charges.

After the arrest, Maduro declared on his Twitter account that, despite the continuous “imperial ambushes”, Venezuela will continue on its way to victory. Maduro presumably referred to the coming legislative elections, scheduled for 6 December. These arrests come at the moment when the Venezuelan government is reeling from an economic crisis marked by an incredible inflation value of 200% and widespread food and basic service shortages that have lately buoyed Maduro’s opponents.

Moreover, the incident is likely to heighten tensions between the United States and Venezuela and cast a new look at Washington’s accusations of drug trafficking at the highest levels of Maduro’s socialist administration. In fact, the arrests of the two men come as prosecutors in New York, Washington and Miami are pursuing numerous investigations into alleged drug-trafficking and money-laundering activities of top Venezuelan military, police and government officials.

Nine Venezuelan functionaries are on the list of the US Department of Treasure as suspected of drug trafficking. Five of them, including the actual President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, are active or retired members of the military, allegedly part of the renowned Cartel of the Suns, in reference to the sun medals worn on the officers’ lapels.