Is Venezuela the cocaine capital of the world? Suspecting top officials there have turned the country into a “global hub for cocaine trafficking and money laundering,” federal prosecutors are joining an elite unit of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for a covert investigation into a possible drug cartel high within the country’s ranks, according to anonymous sources cited in the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal reported Monday several high-ranking Venezuelan officials -- including Diosdado Cabello, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly -- are suspected of running a massive drug-trafficking operation. Citing “more than a dozen people familiar with the probes,” the paper said U.S. prosecutors are building cases with the help of informants, former drug traffickers and military defectors. A Justice Department source told the paper Cabello is suspected of being one of the heads, “if not the head,” of the cartel.
Media reports in three Venezuelan news outlets surfaced earlier this year in which Cabello was accused of involvement in the drug trade. Cabello subsequently sued the outlets saying they had no evidence of his involvement, the Journal reported.
Cabello was a key figure in helping the late Hugo Chavez return to power in 2002. He assumed office as president of the National Assembly, the country’s legislature, in January 2012.