Efrain Campo Flores and Francisco Flores, two of Maduro’s nephews, were sentenced to 18 years in prison by a judge in a New York City courtroom this afternoon. The pair were also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. Because Efrain and Francisco have already served two years in pre-trial detention, they will be eligible for release in 2033.
The two will serve out their time at the Federal Correctional Complex, Coleman in Florida. The complex houses inmates in low, medium and high security.
Efrain and Francisco–who are the blood relatives of First Lady Cilia Flores–werearrested in Haiti in November 2015 while attempting to arrange the smuggling of 800 kilograms of cocaine into the US with an undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The pair signed confessions on the plane ride over to the United States, and were found guilty of drug trafficking by a New York City jury in November of last year.
Maduro regime officials remained tight-lipped throughout the Flores’ trial. The closest comment to an official statement came in January of 2016, when First Lady Cilia Flores told a crowd of supporters that her nephews had been “kidnapped” by the US government without providing any details.
During the trial, the jury heard the nephews bragging in undercover recordings that their connections to the top echelon of the Maduro regime would grant them access to the presidential hangar at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetia, which they could use to ship drugs out of Venezuela.
The jury also heard and saw evidence in the form of text messages sent by Efrain and Francisco which implicated the two in gruesome crimes. In one text exchange, the men exchanged banter over a picture of a decapitated individual, while in another they discussed the murder of a person who “asked too many questions”. The text messages also included evidence that the two men had likely been involved in a previous drug trafficking operation, as well as a corruption scheme involving the state-owned PDVSA oil company.
Efrain and Francisco were only charged with five drug trafficking-related offences, including importing controlled substances and intent to distribute.
Today’s sentence brings a dramatic end to the trial of the pair, whom Venezuelan media has called the narcosobrinos [the narco-nephews].
Opposition Mum on Possible Deal with PSUV
As the Mesa de la Unida Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc and ruling PSUV party get ready to meet for a second round of talks in the Dominican Republic starting tomorrow, the opposition was coy regarding the possibility that the two sides might be close to reaching an agreement on the ongoing social and political crisis.
Without providing too many details, National Assembly deputy Luis Florido said that the MUD is heading into the new round of talks with the attitude that it is better to not come to an agreement than to “sign an agreement that is very bad”. On the possibility that a deal may in fact be reached, Florido said:
We have one issue left to debate, which is [a method for] following up on and ensuring that any agreements are kept. We will debate that tomorrow, December 15. We’re facing the possibility that we may have an agreement that would benefit the country.
The MUD and the PSUV first sat down to dialogue this year with the help of the Dominican Republic on December 1. That set of talks lasted until December 2. The MUD has a list of demands of the PSUV that includes the immediate release of political prisoners, the appointment of a new electoral council, and the creation of conditions to allow for a free and fair presidential election next year.
43 Days After Introduction, Bs. 100,000 Bill Now Worth Bs. 64,000
A mere 43 days after being introduced into the Venezuelan market, the Bs. 100,000 bill has lost more than a third of its value and is now worth Bs. 64,000. The rapid devaluation of the bill is a testament to the inflationary crisis affecting the country.
The Bs. 100,000 bill launched on November 2. According to the National Assembly, the inflation rate for November was 56.7%, while the accumulated rate for 2017 is now 1,370%. These figures give Venezuela the grim distinction of having the highest inflation on the planet.
National Assembly deputy Angel Alvarado placed blame for the country’s dire economic situation on the Maduro regime, saying:
The hyperinflationary event that we are living through makes Venezuelans poorer each day, and the Bolivar weaker. The government is responsible for all of this, having made many bad decisions.
Yesterday, the largest business association in Venezuela–FEDECAMARAS–announced that according to its estimates, Venezuela is now officially suffering from hyperinflation.
The president of the organization, Carlos Lazarrabal, spoke yesterday to reporters on the effects and causes of hyperinflation in Venezuela, saying:
[Hyperinflation] is dramatic because it is de-capitalizing all of us equally. [The government] has increased monetary liquidity by more than 900% this year, which is the main fuel for inflation.
Maduro Heading to Cuba
Vice President Tareck El Aissami announced today that Maduro would head to Cuba this afternoon.
El Aissami did not reveal why Maduro is making the trip, or how long he will remain on the island.
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