Following the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the United States this past Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice released a detention memo outlining the allegations against the infamous head of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

The detention memo mentions Venezuela twice, and claims that the country – along with Colombia and Ecuador – played a key role in El Chapo’s drug empire.

According to the memo, the expansion of business into South America included “embedding” cartel members in countries that provided drugs for the cartel, including Venezuela. The memo reads:

… Guzman soon embedded Sinaloa Cartel members in South American source countries, including not only Colombia, but also Ecuador and Venezuela, to negotiate directly with traffickers in the supply chain.

The same memo explains that captured Sinaloa Cartel members who have collaborated with authorities have explained that El Chapo’s drug trafficking operations in the region included the use of “clandestine runways” in Venezuela to transport drugs by airplane. The memo reads:

Colombian and Mexican drug transporters are expected to provide further details concerning Guzman’s and the Sinaloa Cartel’s means and methods of transporting drug shipments along Guzman’s chain of distribution from South and Central America, through Mexico and across the Mexican/American border into the United States. For example, some transporters will discuss the use of cocaine-laden airplanes, which flew from clandestine airstrips in Colombia and Venezuela to others in Central America and Mexico.

High-ranking Venezuelan officials have been suspected of being involved in drug trafficking operations for years, and last November two close relatives of Maduro were convicted of attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. However, these latest revelations from the U.S. Department of Justice are mark the first time that Venezuelan drug operations have been linked to the largest and most powerful drug cartel in the world.

Guzman’s detention memo can be found here.

Maduro Names Ricardo Sanguino BCV Head

Rumours that Maduro had asked head of the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) Nelson Merentes to step down from his position on Friday afternoon were confirmed today after National Assembly deputy (PSUV) Ricardo Sanguino was named to the position earlier today. Maduro made his announcement during his Sunday television show, Los Domingos con Maduro [Sundays with Maduro].

Sanguino has been a National Assembly deputy for the past 17 years, and was once teh head of the legislature’s Economic and Financial Development Commission.

Maduro announced Sanguino’s appointment by saying:

In light of the resignation by our colleague Nelson Merentes from the presidency of the BCV, and in my capacity as head of state and President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, I have decided to name as president of the Venezuelan Central Bank economist Ricardo Sanguino, a man of great experience. I know him very well. He is one of the most studious and learned men of the financial and economic way of life of the country.

Caro Transferred to Guarico Prison

El Nacional reported yesterday that Voluntad Popular (VP) politician and National Assembly alternate deputy Gilber Caro was transferred to the 26 de Julio prison in Guarico state after being incommunicado for 10 days.

National Assembly vice-president and fellow VP member Freddy Guevara tweeted that neither Caro’s friends nor family had been made aware of the move.

Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela tweeted four images which appear to show Caro’s admission into the prison, as well as a shot of him apparently getting read to eat. Varela also took the opportunity to attack the “fascist” opposition:

The fascists think that we would do the same things that they would [meaning, that the PSUV would treat prisoners the same way that “fascists” would]. Independent of his crimes, his treatment is dignified!

Caro has yet to be convicted of any crime, and has in fact not been formally charged yet. He arrested on January 11 as part of a crackdown by the Maduro regime against the country’s political opposition, primarily the VP party.

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