Venezuela’s National Assembly speaker is hitting back at international news outlets following reports that he was the target of a U.S. probe into drug-trafficking networks in Venezuela.
Diosdado Cabello, widely considered the country’s second in command, said in an interview with Venezuela’s Televen network Sunday he was planning to sue those who reported on allegations that he had allowed the drug trade to flourish in Venezuela. “I have already sued here in Venezuela, but I will also sue in Spain, and in the United States,” he said, according to news agency Efe.
Cabello accused the outlets of publishing reports about U.S. officials investigating his alleged links to the drug trade without any proof of those ties. Suing them was a “moral obligation” to “overcome this media lie,” he said.
“In the U.S., can this happen? I don’t believe that a country supporting what they call ‘freedom of expression’ can discredit someone or invent lies of this kind, and nothing happens,” he added.
Spain’s ABC newspaper, the Wall Street Journal and the Miami's El Nuevo Herald all published stories on the allegations against Cabello in January, after his former bodyguard, Leamzy Salazar, reportedly defected to the United States to work with U.S. officials to build a case against him and a slate of other Venezuelan officials over the purported drug ties. According to the reports, Salazar was planning to testify that Cabello oversaw shipments of cocaine out of the country and was involved in money-laundering operations. In mid-May, ABC, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times followed up with further reports that the investigation against Cabello and other officials was moving forward.
In Cabello’s remarks Sunday, he didn’t mention any of the U.S. outlets by name but made a reference to “this man from ABC” who “has gotten himself into big trouble, because I am going to sue him in Spain.”
Last month Cabello filed defamation lawsuits against 22 employees from three Venezuelan news outlets for publishing the same allegations and requested they be barred from leaving the country. The outlets, La Patilla, Tal Cual and El Nacional, are all known for regular criticisms against the Socialist administration of President Nicolás Maduro.
Maduro repeatedly backed Cabello against the reports. In late May, he said the government would launch a “national and international campaign” in his defense.