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No One in Venezuela Is Talking About Maduro's Relatives Who Were Busted on Drug Charges

Aside from an unspecific presidential tweet about an "imperial ambush," the arrests of two nephews of the first lady has been greeted with a deafening silence from Venezuelan officials and been hardly reported by local media.
November 12, 2015, 11:50pm
Imagen por Fernando Llano/AP

The news that two relatives of President Nicolás Maduro's wife had been been detained in Haiti and then indicted for cocaine smuggling in the United States spread like wildfire through the Venezuela as soon as it broke on Wednesday.

But while social media has been buzzing ever since with the comments of ordinary citizens, the authorities, the media and most public figures in the country have been all but silent.


Even the president limited himself to little more than a quick and unspecific tirade against imperialism.

"The fatherland will continue along its path," Maduro tweeted on Wednesday. "Imperial ambushes cannot bring down the people of the liberators. We have a single destiny, which is to overcome."

Maduro also spoke about "imperial harassment" during a speech to the UN human rights body in Geneva on Thursday in which he promised that Venezuela would "break down their lies."

But the president's subsequent tweets contained no hint that something might be wrong. "We have have received a shower of love and solidarity in Geneva," one read.

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Back in Venezuela no government spokesman and nobody notable from the judicial system or the prosecution service stepped forward to make a comment on the arrest of Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efraín Antonio Campos Flores.

Both men are nephews of Maduro's wife — Cilia Flores — who the president likes to refer to as the "First Combatant" and who has a notable political career of her own. Accompanying her husband in Geneva, she avoided requests for comment from reporters.

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The two men were arrested in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday by anti-narcotics police at the request of the US authorities and then flown out of the country accompanied by DEA agents, The Associated Press reported citing a senior Haitian official.


The news agency said that the charge against them in a New York federal court cited their alleged participation in the organization of a shipment of cocaine to the United States via Honduras.

The case comes at a particularly delicate time for the administration of President Maduro who took office in 2013, hand picked by President Hugo Chavez before he died. He faces tough congressional elections in December that could see the ruling Socialist Party lose its majority for the first time since Chavez took office in 1999.

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One of the few public figures in Venezuela who has spoken in the wake of the arrests is Jesús Chuo Torrealba, who heads the main opposition grouping called the Table of Democratic Unity. And even he was cautious.

"We believe in the presumption of innocence, everybody is innocent until proven otherwise, but there should be a process," he told reporters. Chuo Torrealba said that the Venezuelan congress should name a commission to go to the US to find out what was happening.

Former presidential candidate and governor of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles Radonski, took to twitter with two comments.

"Venezuela is waiting for the national government to provide information about what happened in Haiti with the two detainees with diplomatic passports," he said in one tweet, referring to reports that they were traveling with diplomatic papers despite not being entitled to them.

National and local, private and public TV and radio channels, meanwhile, ignored the news entirely on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. Of the main national papers only two — El Nacional and Diario 2011 — included it in their print editions.

The arrests also remained absent from the online news site Ultimas Noticias into the afternoon. El Universal did mention the arrests. It did not, however, explain who the "two Venezuelans arrested for drug trafficking" were. Most digital media did carry the news, though internet coverage in Venezuela remains limited.

Related: Venezuela Rising

Follow Alicia Hernández on Twitter @por_puesto