HomeNewsBriefDEA Arrests Relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
BRIEF

DEA Arrests Relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

ELITES AND CRIME / 12 NOV 2015 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

US officials have arrested two relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on drug trafficking charges, furthering speculation around the involvement of Venezuela's upper echelons of power in the drug trade.

Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas were arrested by local authorities on November 10 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, reported The Wall Street Journal. They were then turned over to US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and flown to New York. Accused of conspiring to transport 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, they are scheduled to appear before a federal judge on November 12.

Campo Flores identified himself as Maduro's stepson, having been raised by his aunt and Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores. Flores de Freitas reportedly said he also was a nephew of Cilia Flores. According to the AP, both men were carrying diplomatic passports at the time of their arrest, but do not have diplomatic immunity.

In October, the two contacted a DEA confidential informant in Honduras to ask for help in trafficking drugs through the airport on the island of Roatan, and allegedly sent pilots to speak with an airport official about the scheme. According to a person with knowledge of the matter cited by The Wall Street Journal, "It looked like amateur stuff."

As reported by Spain's ABC, this is not the first time sons of Flores and Maduro have been linked to drug trafficking. Testimony by Leamsy Salazar -- the ex-head of security for former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and current National Assembly President Disodado Cabello -- accused Walter Jacob Gavidia Flores -- a son of Flores -- of using planes owned by Venezuela's national oil company (PdVSA) to transport drugs. This was allegedly done in collaboration with Maduro's son, also called Nicolas.

US officials have identified Venezuela as the main transfer point for Colombian cocaine destined for the United States, saying over 200 tons of cocaine transits Venezuela annually. This accounts for roughly a third of Colombia's estimated production, reported the AP.

InSight Crime Analysis

As the AP points out, these arrests mark the first time US officials have targeted members of Maduro's "inner circle" accused of drug trafficking.

Nonetheless, there's some implication that the two nephews could hardly be considered key figures in Venezuela's transnational drug trade, given that the Wall Street Journal's source called them amateurish. It is possible Campos Flores and Flores de Freitas were inexperienced criminals caught up in a successful DEA sting operation. But if they were indeed carrying out a relatively "amateur" attempt at drug trafficking, another possible explaination is that the two men felt a false sense of security, and believed they were engaging in business-as-usual and could rely on the protection of top Venezuelan authorities. 

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

The arrests of Campo Flores and Flores de Freitas are the latest in a series of accusations -- as well as ongoing rumors -- regarding official collusion in drug trafficking. For instance, in 2014, Venezuela's ex-intelligence chief Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios was detained in Aruba at the behest of US officials. Accused of drug trafficking, Carvajal was nonetheless released days after his arrest, frustrating US attempts for his extradition.

Similarly, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello has avoided being directly linked to drug trafficking. This is despite a recent book that leveled scathing drug trafficking accusations against him, and indications he is under investigation by US prosecutors. Notably, Fox News Latino reported Maduro's nephews told DEA officials following their arrest that they were acting in connection with Cabello.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 5 DEC 2014

In what represents the latest in a series of cases to expose ties between Peru's elite and criminal groups, a…

VENEZUELA / 27 OCT 2011

President Hugo Chavez announced a 50 percent salary boost and other benefits for members of Venezuela’s armed forces.

EL SALVADOR / 19 MAR 2018

In just under two months, the president of Guatemala will appoint a new attorney general. Before the end of the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…