A New York City district court jury has just found Efrain and Francisco Flores each guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, stemming from a DEA investigation that saw the two men arrested in Haiti in November of last year.
The news was first broken by a Venezuelan journalist living in New York City named Maibort Petit. Petit attended the trial, which started on Monday, and was present in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Efrain and Francisco are the nephews of Cilia Flores and Maduro through marriage.
After the verdict was read, judge Paul Crotty said that the sentencing section of the trial would probably take place on March 7 of next year. The two men face a sentence of ten years to life.
The shocking verdict vindicated the prosecution’s narrative that Efrain and Francisco used their direct connections to the highest levels of the Venezuelan government in order to take part in drug trafficking activities. It also means that two members of Maduro’s household are now officially convicted drug traffickers.
In audio evidence presented in court, Francisco bragged that he had been in the drug trade since he was 18 years old, and that he had used the presidential runway at the Maiquetia International Airport near Caracas to smuggle drugs out of Venezuela. Flores also admitted that the money from the drug deal for which he has just been convicted would go to first lady Cilia Flores’ run for the National Assembly last year.
Neither Maduro, Cilia Flores nor the Venezuelan government have yet issued a statement on the case.
Rosmit Mantilla, Political Prisoner, Released
Last night, the government released one of the country’s 109 political prisoners, Rosmit Mantilla, two and a half years after his detention.
Mantilla had just walked out of an operation for an urological condition last night when he was given his release papers to sign. Later, Mantilla told reporters:
I came out really well [from the operation], and now I’m going home to get better and continue to work for Venezuela.
Mantilla is a human rights activist with the Voluntad Popular (VP) party and focuses on the field of LGBTQ rights in the country. He was arrested in May 2014 as anti-government protests reached their crescendo across the country. According to the Foro Penal Venezolano, an NGO that tracks political prisoners in the country, Mantilla was framed by authorities in order to arrest him over his activism. According to the NGO, security agents planted U.S. dollars on him and accused him of financing the protests.
After his release, Mantilla said:
After two hours of being kidnapped and trapped, I have come out stronger. The iron of the cell bars ran through my veins. Now I’m going in strong into the National Assembly.
Mantilla was elected as a back-up deputy during the 2015 parliamentary elections. He will be officially sworn in for this role at the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Rosmit should not have spent even a second behind bars.
More Political Prisoners May Be Released Soon
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup said that he hopes that other political prisoners to be released in the coming days, including possibly Antonio Ledezma and Yon Goicoechea.
Allup said that during a conversation with former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero three weeks ago, he asked him to advocate for the release of Mantilla, Ledezma, Goicoechea and at least two other opposition figures. Zapatero has taken on the role of mediator in the PSUV/opposition talks.
Maduro: Lawsuit Incoming Against Henry Ramos Allup
Maduro called in to a radio station in Caracas today to say that a lawsuit would be filed– presumably sooner rather than later – against National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup by a group of legal experts.
Maduro’s explanation of what the lawsuit would be based on was not entirely clear. He seemed to suggest that Allup would be sued for “mental insanity”, although this is probably not correct since mental insanity is not a crime under Venezuelan law.
There is a group of civilian lawyers out there preparing a lawsuit for mental insanity against Ramos Allup and a lawsuit for instigating crimes, hate crimes.
Enough with all the hatred. Venezuela wants peace.
Allup has often been the target of angry tirades and wild accusations from Maduro. In the past, Maduro has accused Allup of inviting U.S. intervention in Venezuela, and at one point called him racist. Perhaps most infamously, Maduro called Allup an “old motherfucker” during a speech in September.
Venezuelans Limited to $5 ATM Withdrawals Per Day
The Venezuelan government has instituted a policy limiting the amount of money that a person can withdraw from his or her bank account in a single day. The measure limits withdrawals to Bs. 10,000 per day, and affects withdrawals made both at ATMs and from bank tellers.
At the current black market rate (Bs.1,952/US$), Bs. 10,000 is approximately $5.12.
According to El Nacional, the measure is likely the result of two realities affecting the Venezuelan economy: the rate at which banks receive bills from the Banco Central de Venezuela (BSV) has fallen by 50% in the last month, and new bills scheduled to enter circulation on December 15 have not yet arrived in the country.
The highest denomination bill in circulation right now is Bs. 100. However, the country’s runaway inflation rate has made the bill essentially worthless. El Nacional reports that starting on December 15, the BCV will start to introduce higher denomination bills in stages, beginning with Bs. 200 and 500 bills and eventually climbing up to Bs., 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 bills.
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