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The US is going after alleged drug lords linked to the Venezuelan government

President Nicolás Maduro dismissed the latest indictments, unsealed by a court in Brooklyn this week, as an attack by the US empire. He also promoted one of generals named to interior minister.

by Alicia Hernández
Aug 4 2016, 3:34pm

Photo by Miguel Gutiérrez/EPA

The long-running trickle of US-based drug trafficking allegations leveled at people with close links to the Venezuelan government is turning into a steady stream. So far, however, it appears to have hardened President Nicolás Maduro's resolve the resist the pressure.

This week an indictment unsealed in a Brooklyn federal court said generals Néstor Reverol and Edylberto José Molina took bribes from traffickers and, in return, warned them of raids, and derailed investigations in a way that ensured more drugs reached the US. And they did it, prosecutors claim, while they served as director and deputy director of the national anti-drugs office between 2008 and 2010.

"Simply put, the indictments send a message that there is no difference between a drug trafficker, and a drug trafficker who leads anti-narcotics trafficking efforts," the DEA's James Hunt said in a statement announcing the unsealing on Monday.

The next day President Maduro announced that he was going to make Reverol — who had been head of the militarized National Guard until July 7 — his new interior minister in charge of internal security.

"I want to give him my solidarity and support," Maduro said in a TV address. "He has been attacked by the North American empire."

Maduro also showered Reverol in praise, calling him an "exemplary officer" as well as "patriotic" and "revolutionary." This "brave man" the president insisted had "broken records" in the number of international drug dealers he had detained.

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

The charges against Reverol and Molina come hot on the heels of the arrest in May of two nephews of first lady Cilia Flores. The DEA detained Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efraín Antonio Campo Flores in Haiti in November and then took them to New York.

According to court documents filed in July, the so-called narconephews confessed during the flight to planning to move cocaine into the US that they obtained from somebody tied to Colombian rebels.

Meanwhile, the clock may also be ticking for Diosdado Cabello, who was leader of the National Assembly until the political opposition took control of the chamber last December or the first time since President Hugo Chávez launched his Bolivarian Revolution after winning elections in 1999.

The rumors of a future indictment began after Cabello's security chief, Leamsy Salazar, turned up in the US in December 2014 and reportedly provided the authorities with damaging information about his old boss.

Spanish and US media have reported that Cabello is being investigated as the alleged head of the Cartel de los Soles, or the Cartel of the Suns. The cartel is named after solar badges used by generals in the Venezuelan military — one sun for brigadier general, two for a division general, and three for a general in chief.

These high profile cases are part of a broader US pursuit of Venezuelans linked to the government for alleged drug trafficking that has been going on for years, but has never been so intense.

It includes a 2014 effort to detain former military intelligence chief Hugo Armando Carvajal in the Dutch island of Aruba where he had been sent as consul. The Dutch authorities, who had refused to accept Carvajal's appointment, did initially fulfil the international arrest warrant. President Maduro, however, managed to get him repatriated anyway.

Carvajal's near miss contains a potential lesson for Molina, the general indicted alongside Reverol this week. He is currently serving as a military attaché in Germany.

Related: Guns, Drugs, and Poodles: The Life and Death of a Venezuelan Prison Boss

Follow Alicia Hernandez on Twitter @por_puesto

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