The U.S. Justice Department may have just breathed some life into the near-dead opposition movement in Venezuela. On Thursday, Justice leveled narco-terrorism and other criminal charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and senior leaders of his government.
Relations between the U.S. and Venezuela have been poor since Hugo Chavez, a self-described Marxist, became president in 1999. Chavez embraced fellow Marxist leaders Fidel and Raul Castro in Cuba, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and other leftists such as Evo Morales in Bolivia. He began a constant stream of anti-U.S. rhetoric as he systematically suppressed the press, manipulated electoral laws, arrested and exiled government critics. His successor, Maduro, followed the same path. During Maduro’s presidency corruption rose and the economy tanked.
Now, the U.S.-Venezuelan relation will take an even worse turn as the State Department designated Maduro and many of his top cronies from Venezuela’s military, parliament, and judiciary under its Narcotics Rewards Program, offering multimillion-dollar bounties for their arrest.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said that a $15 million dollar reward is being offered for information leading to Maduro’s arrest.