Bangkok Post

Maduro accomplice surrenders



>>CARACAS: US Drug Enforcemen­t Agency agents on Friday remanded in custody retired Venezuelan general Cliver Alcala, three people familiar with the matter said, after he agreed to work with prosecutor­s who charged him, President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials with drug traffickin­g.

Mr Alcala surrendere­d to DEA agents in Colombia and waived his right to challenge extraditio­n, the three people told Reuters. He was flown to White Plains, New York from the port city of Barranquil­la, where he had been living.

The White House and a DEA spokeswoma­n referred questions to the US Department of Justice, which declined to comment. The State Department did not reply to a request for comment. Colombia’s National Police declined to comment.

The US government on Thursday indicted Mr Maduro, Mr Alcala and 13 other current and former Venezuelan officials on charges of “narco-terrorism”, the latest escalation of a pressure campaign by US President Donald Trump administra­tion to oust the socialist leader.

Attorney General William Barr accused Mr Maduro and his associates of colluding with a dissident faction of the demobilise­d Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC, “to flood the United States with cocaine”.

Mr Maduro, in a state television address, dismissed the charges as false and racist, and called Mr Trump a “miserable person”.

The US State Department had offered a reward of up to US$10 million (325.3 million baht) for informatio­n leading to Mr Alcala’s arrest, while there is a reward of up to $15 million for informatio­n aiding Mr Maduro’s detention.

The indictment alleged that Mr Alcala and other top officials received bribes from the FARC in exchange for safe passage for cocaine shipments sent through Venezuela.

Around 2008, at a meeting with senior socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello and then head of the military intelligen­ce unit, Hugo Carvajal, it was decided Mr Alcala would coordinate drug-traffickin­g with the FARC, according to the indictment.

Mr Cabello and Mr Carvajal were both charged too. They have previously denied accusation­s of drug traffickin­g.

Mr Alcala retired from the armed forces as Mr Maduro took over the presidency in 2013 following his predecesso­r Hugo Chavez’s death from cancer.

Mr Alcala later fell out with the ruling Socialist Party and fled to Colombia, from where he has publicly spoken out against Mr Maduro and backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has staked a rival claim to the presidency with US support.

On Thursday evening, after the indictment’s announceme­nt, Mr Alcala told the DEA over the phone that he would give himself up, one person said.

In a video posted on his Instagram account on Friday afternoon, before leaving with the DEA, Mr Alcala said, “Family, I say goodbye for a while. I face the responsibi­lities of my actions with the truth.”

Other Venezuelan officials whose indictment­s were announced on Thursday include Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino and the chief justice of the country’s supreme court, Maikel Moreno, who was charged with money laundering.

One of the people familiar with Friday’s DEA operation said efforts had been underway to convince other individual­s who have been indicted to surrender, but it was too early to say whether that would succeed, as unlike Mr Alcala, they remained in Venezuela.

 ??  ?? FACING PRESSURE: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a televised announceme­nt in Caracas on Thursday.
FACING PRESSURE: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a televised announceme­nt in Caracas on Thursday.

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