President Nicolás Maduro and First Lady Cilia Flores (Image: Agencia de Noticias ANDES, CC BY 2.0)
Andes, Today in Latin America, Venezuela

Two Nephews of Venezuelan First Lady Extradited to U.S. on Drug Charges

November 12, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — Two nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores were arrested on Tuesday in Haiti for their alleged attempt to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. Efraín Campos and Francisco Flores were extradited to New York, where they will appear in federal court on Thursday, according to a U.S. law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press anonymously.

The U.S. government has previously indicted several top Venezuelan officials on allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering, but this is the first case that has reached Maduro’s inner circle. First lady Flores, who Maduro refers to as “first combatant,” is a former president of the National Assembly and an important political figure in Maduro’s administration.

Maduro criticized the arrests on Twitter, where he said, “Neither attacks nor imperialist ambushes can harm the people of the liberators.”

The extradition comes three weeks before legislative elections, and less than a month after Brazil dropped out of an international mission to observe the elections after Maduro’s government’s barred their observer team leader. Some polls indicate that the elections could result in a major defeat for the ruling socialist party.

After his arrest, Campos reportedly told law enforcement that he was the son of Flores and stepson of Maduro, but a source privy to the case who also requested anonymity has said that Campos is the son of first lady Flores’ deceased sister and was partly raised by Maduro and her.

U.S. officials say about one third of Colombia’s estimated cocaine production flows through Venezuela on its way to mostly U.S. and European markets.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexico’s ruling political party, the PRI, agreed to abandon the use of “nueromarketing” experts in elections following a New York Times story that claimed the party used the tactics to help candidates connect emotionally with voters by gauging brain waves, skin arousal and facial expressions during the 2012 presidential election.
  • Ten Mexican federal police officers will stand trial for their role in the alleged unlawful arrest of a Spanish lawyer who was to testify in a corruption case between a civil engineering firm and the government of the central state of Mexico.
  • Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan warned President Obama against using an executive order to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, following the passage of a new annual defense spending bill on Tuesday that expressly prohibits the center’s closure.

Caribbean

  • Political opposition candidates and thousands of supporters protested in Port-au-Prince Wednesday against what they call an “electoral coup d’etat” by President Michael Martelly and his ruling party. The demonstrations follow the announcement Monday of initial election results that place Martelly-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse against Jude Célestin of the Lapeh (Peace) party in the presidential runoff election scheduled for Dec. 27.
  • Moody’s Investor Service announced on Wednesday that Puerto Rico is unlikely to be able to pay back some of the country’s $355 million debt due on Dec. 1, a default that analysts claim could push Congress into approving the Obama administration’s plan to allow the island territory to file for bankruptcy.

Central America

  • In meetings with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a U.S. State Department official detailed the department’s 2016 plan to invest $1 billion for economic development, security and democracy promotion in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — effectively tripling U.S. aid to the region.
  • Five people were injured in Managua following an attack allegedly carried out by Sandinista youth on opposition protestors staging a weekly march in support of fair elections in Nicaragua’s 2016 presidential and legislative elections.

Andes

  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was in Peru on Wednesday as part of his Latin America tour that began three days ago. Clinton visited a project aimed at helping indigenous women provide essential goods to their communities.
  • As Venezuela’s parliamentary elections on Dec. 6 approach, legislators from the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru have asked Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to ensure fair elections by allowing election observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union to be present during the voting.
  • According to the United Nations, Colombia has overtaken Peru as the world’s largest producer of cocaine, with U.N. estimates predicting a 52 percent increase in cocaine production in 2015.

Southern Cone

  • Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said on Wednesday that large fines are likely for mining companies BHP Billiton Ltd and Vale SA, which jointly own an iron ore mine where two dams ruptured last week, killing at least eight and creating what Teixeira called an “environmental catastrophe.”
  • A Brazilian man returning from a visit to Guinea on Nov. 6 was diagnosed with symptoms of Ebola and immediately placed under quarantine in the city of Belo Horizonte, where he is awaiting transfer to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Ministry of Health reported.
  • Reverend Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest who the Vatican accuses of sexual abusing young boys, continued to proclaim his innocence in court on Wednesday.
  • China’s hold on the Uruguayan automobile market is being threatened by low-cost imports from Brazil and India, with Chinese car sales seeing an almost 34 percent decline in sales during the greater part of 2015.

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