DOJ charges nephews of Venezuelan first lady with drug trafficking

DOJ charges nephews of Venezuelan first lady with drug trafficking
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Two men related to Venezuela’s first lady were arrested in Haiti this week and have been brought to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

According to a five-page federal indictment released on Thursday, 29-year-old Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and 30-year-old Franqui Francisco Flores-de Freitas conspired to bring five kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

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The two men are nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's wife Cilia Flores, and the arrest could lead to new tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela, which have been at odds for years.

According to multiple reports, the two were arrested by local Haitain police in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday and then handed over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In its indictment, the Justice Department claimed that the two men had planned to send its shipment of cocaine to the U.S. via Honduras.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the two men originally contacted a DEA informant in Hondurus about plans to route 800 kilograms of cocaine through the Honduran island of Roatán. 

The State Department has called Venezuela a “preferred” route for drug traffickers sending their shipments to the U.S. and Western Europe.

American officials have claimed that high-level executives within the Venezuelan government have been involved with the drug trade, though Venezuelan leaders have dismissed the allegations as imperialist propaganda.

Flores, the first lady, is a highly influential figure known as the “First Combatant” who is frequently seen at the president’s side. She and Maduro married shortly after he became president in 2013, succeeding President Hugo Chávez. 

The new arrests come at an inconvenient time for Venezuela, less than a month before a Dec. 6 election for legislators. 

Thursday’s charges are being brought by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.