Evidence of Venezuela acting as a narco state

Foreign Policy:
With its economic woes multiplying by the day, the last thing the Venezuelan government needs is another blow to its international reputation. But that’s exactly what it got yesterday, when the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that an ex-bodyguard of Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of the Venezuelan parliament, has provided information to U.S. authorities implicating his former boss as a kingpin in the drug trade. According to the report, Leamsy Salazar, a well-connected officer within the Venezuelan armed forces, has defected to the United States, and is set to serve as the star witness in an American investigation into ties between the Caracas government and powerful narcotics syndicates.

Given his background, Salazar certainly ought to be in the know. Prior to turning state’s witness, he spent over a decade as the head of Hugo Chávez’s personal security detail and sometime personal assistant; a YouTube videocurrently making the rounds on Venezuelan social media even shows El Comandante singing Salazar’s praises on TV. Following the death of Chávez in early 2013, Salazar was reassigned to Cabello, whom he is prepared to depict in court, according to ABC, as the capo di tutti capi of the “Soles” narcotics cartel.

The Soles cartel, named for the sun emblem embroidered on high-ranking Venezuelan military uniforms, is an alleged drug trading organization nested inside the armed forces. No one has ever managed to quite confirm its existence, though accounts of it have long circulated in the Caracas rumor mill (which, however unreliable, is the main alternate source of information for most Venezuelans now that censorship and state control have subdued the press).

Cabello has been a fixture within the Bolivarian Revolution from the outset, having gotten his start as one of Chávez’s military barrack-mates in the early 1990s. Since then he has served as vice president, state governor, chief of staff, presidential campaign manager, and minister of everything from justice to public works. A WikiLeaks U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 characterized Cabello as a “major pole” of corruption often “working through intimidation behind the scenes,” and speculated that even “Chavez himself might be concerned about Cabello’s growing influence but unable to diminish it.” Today, give or take President Nicolás Maduro himself, Cabello is widely considered the most powerful individual in post-Chávez Venezuela. (The photo above shows Cabello, on the right, with the president during the latter’s State of the Nation speech earlier this month.) Cabello is almost certainly the most feared, given his rumored corruption, his ruthlessness, and his deep ties to the military.
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There is more.

It is important that the US also learn about the Cuban connection to this narco state distribution network because of the current negotiations in regularizing the status of that failed country.  Because these are state actors will be difficult to arrest and try them, but the US can certainly make it difficult for them to travel and to use transportation to deliver the drugs.

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