Spanish newspaper ABC reported today that Diosdado Cabello’s chief of security, Leamsy Salazar, has left Venezuela and is currently in Washington, D.C. Citing anonymous sources, the article claims that Salazar has spoken to officials at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and has accused Cabello of heading a drug cartel.
Cabello is the current vice-president of the PSUV, president of the National Assembly, and the second most powerful man in the country after Maduro.
According to the article published today, Salazar was Cabello’s head of security until last month, when he fled Venezuela to the United States under a protecting agreement. It is alleged that Salazar brought evidence into the United States that implicates Cabello as having a leadership role in the Cartel de los Soles, a little-known Venezuelan drug cartel.
The article claims that Salazar personally heard Cabello give orders to launch boats loaded with cocaine from the Venezuelan coast.
The article also claims that Salazar, himself a high ranking military officer and head of the presidential guard, implicated other PSUV officials, including:
- Aragua state governor Tareck el Aissami, whom he accuses of having ties to “Islamic networks”;
- Ministry of Industry Jose David Cabello, Diosdado’s brother, whom he accuses of heading the cartel’s finances;
- Hugo Rafael Chavez, Jr., Chavez’s son, whom he accuses of organizing PDVSA slight to smuggle drugs.
ABC reports that Salazar has indicated that PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, is used by the cartel has a means through which they can launder money.
The article did not provide any hard evidence for any of its claims.
Author Stands by Article
The article’s author, Emilo Blasco, stood by his piece today, and gave an interview to the Colombian news channel NTN24 where he gave a few details regarding the case.
In this case, the witnesses’ trustworthiness is really important, and in this case he [Salazar] is clean. This means that he wasn’t involved in the drug business (…) He’s a first hand witness, a bodyguard to Chavez who later went on to serve Diosdado. He’s been a witness to drug affairs involving Cabello, who is revealed to be the true head of the Cartel de los Soles.
When asked about Salazar’s whereabouts, Blasco said:
I can’t confirm his current status. But, anyone who flees or leaves Venezuela with the intention of entering the United States as a protected witness has to take special measures. No one can reveal where he is. This news was published yesterday at a time when he was safe in North American soil.
Blasco also that that Salazar decided to escape Venezuela in December, once it became apparent to him that the amount of personal knowledge that he had regarding Cabello’s alleged illegal activities posed a risk to his safety.
U.S.: ABC Story “Consistent” with Reality
The Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, William Brownfield, was unable to deny or confirm whether or not the ABC story was real. However, Brownfield did speak generally on the case, saying:
For more than ten years, we’ve had evidence that certain individuals within the Venezuelan government have been corrupted or penetrated by drug trafficking organizations.
Today’s article is consistent with that history. From my point of view, it’s another fragment of proof that is part of a history ten years in the making, about how drug trafficking organizations have found the ability to establish themselves in Venezuela in order to traffic into other countries.
PSUV Reacts to Accusations
Condemnation by PSUV officials of the allegations published by ABC were universal and swift.
William Ojeda, a PSUV National Assembly deputy, blamed “the ultra right wing” for the allegations, saying:
This ultra right wing is trembling right now. It’s the same that is now cooking up rotten lies…
I haven’t worked with with Diosdado Cabello for very long, but comrades tell me of how firm and consistent he is as a person. Today, I must say that Diosdado Cabello is one of Venezuelan socialism’s most gallant leaders. He’s being attacked as a way to attack the Bolivarian revolution.
Jacqueline Faria, the Minister of Communication and Information, took to Twitter to denounce a “shameless international media”, saying:
The shameless international media is attacking [Diosdado Cabello] because of his loyalty to the revolution and to Commander Chavez.
The ultra right wing’s lies are evidence of how desperate they are over the revolution’s advances. They couldn’t handle Chavez, and they can’t handle us.
Diosdado Cabello also offered a rebuke of the accusations through Twitter, saying:
Each attack against my character strengthens my spirit and my compromise. I am infinitely grateful for our people’s show of solidarity. Threats, lies, and intrigue; we’ve lived through them through these years of revolution. We’ve learned how to navigate through these storms with high morale.
Maduro also voiced his unconditional support for Cabello, saying:
I want to take the opportunity to reject this plan orchestrated by the right against our friend Diosdado Cabello. He has all of my support. As head of the government, I give him all of my support, my brother and revolutionary leader of our homeland.
Maduro also called the allegations against Cabello “vulgar and savage”, and blamed “imperialists” for organizing the attack against Cabello. Maduro also had some serious words for anyone who attacks Venezuela or her officials, saying:
Anyone who messes with Venezuela will dry up. He who betrays the homeland will dry up forever. What awaits them is a hell of loneliness and remorse (…) Whoever betrays the revolution will go to a hell of loneliness, defeat, isolation and rejection.