Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that two of First Lady Cilia Flores’ relatives, Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores, were arrested by the DEA in Haiti earlier this week after the two conspired to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.
The two men appeared before a judge in a New York City courtroom today and were formally charged with conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States. The prosecutor on the case, Preet Bahara, said that that the maximum penalty for the offence is life in prison. Judge James L. Cott will preside the case.
According to the indictment (available here), Efrain and Francisco began plotting to smuggle drugs into the United States starting from at least October of this year “in Venezuela and elsewhere”. The two men are accused of having brought into the United States:
… five kilograms and more of mixtures and substances containing a detectable amount of cocaine…
The indictment also claims that the two men held meetings in Venezuela in order to discuss the shipping of cocaine from the country into the United States through Honduras.
Efrain was raised by Cilia Flores as her own son, while Francisco is her nephew.
White House Confirms Haiti Arrests
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest spoke briefly on the Flores’ case during a press conference today, saying:
I can confirm that two people were arrested in Haiti on charges that they were conspiring to bring an important amount of cocaine into the United States.
Earnest said that he was not in a position to confirm that the two men were Efrain and Francisco Flores.
Maduro, Cilia Silent on Arrests; Gov’t Reacts
Maduro glanced at the arrests of his stepson and nephew last night through his Twitter account, saying:
The Homeland will continue her route. No attacks, no imperialist ambush can go against the People of the Liberators. We have only one destiny: victory.
So far, there has been no official word from the Maduro government regarding the arrests.
National Assembly deputy Earle Herrera rose to the defense of the Flores name at parliament today, blaming the arrests on a “dirty media war” against Venezuela:
This week, big international media outlets have made defamatory allegations against the national executive as part of a dirty media war against Venezuela. The media has risen up as they look to the December 6 [election] (…) The Secretary General of the Organization of American States has spoken out against the National Electoral Council. At the same time, the head of the Southern Command from the United States government, along with European deputies [sic]. Yesterday, international infamy arose against the family of the primera combatiente [literally, “First Fighter”; meaning, “First Lady”], Cilia Flores, and the President of the Republic.
Herrera also suggested that allegations made earlier this year against Diosdado Cabello and his alleged involvement in the drug trafficking trade are another example of the kind of media attack the Flores family is now under.
Speaking on his weekly television show last night, Diosdado Cabello said:
Once again, we have to denounce that North American imperialism over its attacks against our homeland… [Maduro] is attacked from every angle, and they will continue to attack him. However, we are used to this kind of combat (…) we are facing imperialism, and imperialism doesn’t have scruples.
Maduro Speaks Before UNHRC In Geneva
As per a request from the Venezuelan government made last week, Maduro spoke before a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland today. Maduro argued that Venezuela was under “constant attack” from foreign and domestic enemies who seek to discredit the country’s human rights record “to try to isolate our country”.
As evidence Maduro pointed to last year’s protests, which he claimed “burnt half the country down”. He commended the Venezuelan justice system for its handling of the situation, suggesting that the PSUV rescued it “from the most horrible corruption and classist paralysis”.
Turning to the December 6 parliamentary elections, Maduro said:
Every representative from [every] governments and organizations who want to participate in this peaceful party for democracy are invited.
The comments directly contradict an assertion Maduro made in late July after a meeting with the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. When asked if Venezuela would allow international observers to take part in the December elections, Maduro said:
Venezuela is not observed by anyone.
UNHRC Criticizes Venezuela Over Judicial Pressure
The High Commissioner for the United Nations Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, criticized the Venezuelan government over its intervention in the judiciary, specially in “cases that are politically sensible”.
Al Hussein said that he and his office were “seriously concerned” over the lack of judicial independence in the country, and singled out the cases of Maria Lourdes Afiuni and Leopoldo Lopez as instances of meddling in judicial matters by the executive branch.
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