Top Story — U.S. authorities are investigating several top Venezuelan officials for drug trafficking, according to a report published Monday by The Wall Street Journal, which sides with prior accounts linking a top Venezuelan lawmaker to the narcotics trade.
Diosdado Cabello, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, is reportedly a main target of the investigation by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as well as federal prosecutors.
When Cabello’s bodyguard defected to the United States in January, he accused his former boss of involvement with the “Cartel de los Soles,” an alleged cabal within Venezuela’s military with ties to the cocaine tried.
Cabello, who has denied the accusations, announced on Wednesday that he had sought to bar travel by 22 Venezuelan media figures who have reported on the claims, which were first published by the Spanish newspaper ABC.
An anonymous U.S. Department of Justice official told The Wall Street Journal, regarding Cabello’s alleged links to a trafficking organization, that “there is extensive evidence to justify that he is one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel.” Whether the official was making reference to the Cartel de los Soles is unclear.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- The World Trade Organization on Monday ruled in favor of Mexico and Canada in an appeal against U.S. meat-labelling rules, which require meat sold in the United States to display country-of-origin specifications. The WTO states that such rules discriminate against foreign livestock producers.
- In a case that represents the “problem of social decay” in Mexico, five children have been detained following an investigation found they stoned, stabbed and buried the body of a six-yearold boy they had murdered Monday while playing in Chihuahua state.
- Elián González, the now-21-year-old Cuban citizen at the center of an international custody dispute at the turn of the millennium, told ABC News that he would like to return to the United States as a visitor.
- The Haitian government’s decision to promote pop star Beyoncé’s visit to the Caribbean nation on Facebook backfired, according to The New York Times, as many responded by criticized such high-profile visits by U.S. celebrities and the slow pace of development since the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
- A Cuban Foreign Ministry official said that the upcoming round of talks between the island nation and the United States on Thursday could be the last one before both countries agree to the reopening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.
- Despite massive protests over the weekend calling for Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina to resign amid a government corruption scandal, the president has denied involvement in the case and on Monday vowed to remain in office until his term expires in January 2016.
- Heavy rains in the western Colombian town of Salgar triggered a flash flood and mudslide that left at least 58 dead, prompting President Juan Manuel Santos to travel to the region to oversee relief efforts.
- Two judges in Argentina have come under heavy criticism after a ruling from 2014 was recently leaked, in which the judges significantly reduced the sentence of a man convicted of abusing a 6-year-old boy, claiming the fact that the boy had already been traumatized in a previous case of abuse made this most recent case not “gravely outrageous.”
- Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang began a three-day visit to Brazil on Monday, pledging to invest a much-needed $50 million in the country’s infrastructure ahead of next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
- Quartz takes a look at a burgeoning culture of world-class surfers in Brazil, who often move to other countries to compete because of Brazil’s small waves and polluted beaches, where difficult cleanup efforts raise questions about the country’s preparedless ahead of the Olympic games.