HomeNewsBriefVenezuela Ex-Official Implicates President’s Son in Drug Trafficking
BRIEF

Venezuela Ex-Official Implicates President’s Son in Drug Trafficking

ELITES AND CRIME / 11 AUG 2017 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Another former Venezuelan official now in the United States has accused President Nicolás Maduro's son of drug trafficking, and connected powerful members of the regime to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel. But are his claims against the notorious regime genuine?

The accusations were raised by Sunny Balza Dugarte, a former captain of the Venezuela National Guard, during an interview by the television channel NTN24 on August 9.

Balza was reportedly commander of a military unit stationed on Margarita Island off Venezuela's Caribbean coast in 2014 and 2015. He claims he witnessed bags of unknown content, unchecked by customs, being loaded from pickup trucks onto private planes owned by the Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA) state-owned oil company. These planes were the ones on which Nicolás Maduro Guerra, the Venezuelan president's son, also known as "Nicolasito," allegedly traveled to the island. Balza said the content may have been cocaine, but could not be certain.

The loading occurred at night and in the military area of the island's international airport, according to Balza. Security forces accompanying the president's son would carry out the loading, and the planes did not communicate any flight plans. The former captain says the operation took place every time Nicolasito came to the island to attend parties, which was roughly every two weeks.

Tareck El Aissami, the current vice president who has been sanctioned by the United States for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking, would also load unidentified shipments from pickups trucks onto his own private plane, Balza alleged.

The former captain also said that family members of Diosdado Cabello, one of the ruling party's most powerful figures and former president of the National Assembly, met with members of the Sinaloa Cartel on at least one occasion. Balza said he personally saw two sons of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán at the resort. And he said that the drug lord himself, who is currently awaiting trial in the United States, made trips to the island every two or three months.

InSight Crime Analysis

The allegations from Balza must be considered in the context of Venezuela's increasing international isolation and its rising tensions with the United States, where Balza is seeking asylum. Venezuela has issued an arrest warrant for the former member of the National Guard, according to El Nuevo Herald, although it isn't clear for what. What is evident is that it is in Balza's personal interest to provide the US government with incriminating information about Nicolás Maduro and his inner circle.

A number of sanctions against key members of the Venezuelan regime have been issued this year, some of the most recent against Maduro himself, and more than a dozen former or current high-ranking members of his government have been accused of crimes connected to drug trafficking.

Balza provides no hard evidence for his claims, at least one of which appears highly doubtful. El Chapo was in prison from February 2014 until July 2015 -- the years that Balza says he was a commander on Margarita Island -- and then a fugitive until his recapture in January 2016, undermining the believability of Balza's claims regarding supposed frequency of his visits to Margarita.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

That said, the US government also asserts that the Sinaloa Cartel was involved in Venezuela's drug trade. And Balza's claims do seem to fit with the recent "narco nephews" case, in which two nephews of first lady Flores were convicted by a US court for conspiring to traffic cocaine into the United States.

Balza's testimony adds to the list of former Venezuelan officials now in the United States who are incriminating members of the regime in drug trafficking. The former head of presidential security Leamsy Salazar has accused Diosdado Cabello and his brother of controlling a shadowy drug trafficking network of corrupt military dubbed the Cartel of the Suns. A former judge and governor have levelled equally incriminating accusations at the regime. It is testimony of this kind that helps form at least some of the evidence gathered by US law enforcement to facilitate sanctions and indictments of those suspected to be active in criminal activity and drug trafficking.

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

CACHIROS / 20 MAR 2017

In his continuing testimony to a US court in New York City, a confessed drug trafficker from Honduras implicated the…

ELITES AND CRIME / 10 MAY 2017

Guatemala's former Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla is facing yet another set of legal charges related to his time in…

ELITES AND CRIME / 22 MAY 2020

The former head of Mexico’s federal police has been implicated in a money-laundering scheme that moved millions in suspected bribes…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…