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Latin America

Venezuela rewards former military chief indicted on drug charges

General Nestor Reverol was named Interior Minister, despite being indicted in New York on Monday. He is the latest Venezuelan official to face U.S. charges in an alleged drug trafficking conspiracy.
1 Ago 2016 – 10:12 PM EDT
Foto de archivo de Néstor Reverol, comandante de la Guardia Nacional venezolana, durante un discurso del presidente Nicolás Maduro en la Asamblea Nacional en Caracas. Crédito: Reuters

In a slap in the face to the United States, the former director of Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office, General Néstor Reverol, was appointed Minister of Interior on Tuesday, barely a day after a New York court filed drug charges against him.

Reverol and his former assistant director, Edylberto Jose Molina Molina, were indicted in New York on Monday on drug trafficking related charges, the latest in a string of Venezuelan officials to be indicted in the United States for corruption.

Until last month, Reverol served as commander of the National Guard and Molina as military attache in Germany.

Maduro made the announcement on Tuesday offering his full support to Reverol, calling him a "brave, combative, experienced man," who "has been attacked by the U.S. empire."

Both officials are accused of participating in an international cocaine distribution network at the same time as they served as leaders of the Venezuelan anti-drug agency. According to court documents, they received payments from drug traffickers in exchange for helping to import cocaine into the United States.

Shadowy elements of the Venezuelan military, known as the Cartel of the Suns, have long been suspected of controlling smuggling operations across the border with Colombia, from everything from gasoline and food to cocaine.

"From January 2008 to December 2010, in their then official capacities at ONA, Reverol and Molina received payments from drug traffickers in exchange for assisting the drug traffickers in distributing cocaine for ultimate importation into the United States," according to a press release issued by the Robert Capers, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

"In exchange for such payments they alerted the traffickers to future drug raids or the locations where law enforcement officers in Venezuela were conducting counter-narcotics activities to allow drug traffickers to change the location where they stored drugs or alter drug transportation routes," the release said.

Prosecutors added that the two men face charges of obstructing justice in narcotics investigations in Venezuela, as well as assisting in the release of people arrested on drug charges, as well as drug money seized.

This is the second drug indictment unveiled by the Eastern District of New York relating to senior officials in Venezuela. On March 20, 2013, two National Guard officers, Vassyly Kotosky Villaroel Ramirez, and Rafael Antonio Villasana Fernandez, were accused of participating in an international conspiracy to distribute cocaine between January 2004 and December 2009.

“The indictment announced today reflects our ongoing efforts to combat one of the most insidious and dangerous aspects of the international drug trade – the ability of drug cartels to infiltrate and corrupt the highest echelons of government and law enforcement,” Capers said on Monday.