• The indictment accuses Maduro of turning Venezuela into a criminal enterprise
  • Attorney General William Barr said the indictments are aimed at rooting out corruption in Venezuela
  • The indictment also cites the military's involvement in the alleged conspiracy

The Justice Department on Thursday accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and current and former government officials of turning the South American country into a criminal enterprise designed use the drug trade as a weapon against the United States.

Justice unveiled a series of indictments issued in New York, Washington and Miami that also charge the leaders of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which the U.S. Treasury has sanctioned for international narcotics trafficking.

The indictments accused Maduro and socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello of conspiring with FARC rebels and the military to flood the United States with drugs.

“For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities,” Attorney General William Barr said in unveiling the indictments.

“Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government. The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.”

New York U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Maduro was part of a “narco-terrorism partnership with FARC.”

“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges,” Berman said.

The indictments were presented at the State Department. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said as much as $55 million in rewards would be offered for information leading to the arrests or convictions of Maduro and his associates.

The indictments likely will ratchet up tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela, which long has accused Washington of undermining the regime. The country’s economy was on the verge of collapse under pressure from falling oil prices and the spread of the coronavirus, which is threatening to overwhelm the healthcare system.

Last year, the U.S. attempted to help opposition leader Juan Guaido to seize power. Both he and Maduro claim the presidency.