HomeNewsBriefNew US Sanctions Hit Top Venezuela Officials With Criminal Ties
BRIEF

New US Sanctions Hit Top Venezuela Officials With Criminal Ties

CARTEL DE LOS SOLES / 27 JUL 2017 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

The latest round of sanctions by the United States against high-ranking Venezuelan officials claim to punish human rights abuses, but several of these powerful figures have also contributed to the growth of organized crime in the crisis-stricken Latin American country.

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned 13 current and former Venezuelan officials for “undermining democracy” in their country, including several top-level politicians like Néstor Reverol, Venezuela’s Minister of Interior, Justice, and Peace as well as former drug czar and former Commander General of the Bolivarian National Guard; and Iris Varela, a member of Venezuela’s Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly and former Minister of the Penitentiary Service.

The move comes only days before elections are to be held for seats in Venezuela’s new National Constituent Assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution and “may choose to dissolve Venezuelan state institutions,” the Treasury explained in a press release.

SEE ALSO:  Venezuela News and Profiles

President Nicolás Maduro controversially ordered the creation of the constituent assembly in a May 2017 presidential decree, even while local elections are months overdue. The country has since witnessed a wave of violent protests, while its deep political and economic turmoil continues.

InSight Crime Analysis

While the US sanctions are aimed at punishing human rights abuses by Venezuela’s increasingly repressive government, they have also shone the international spotlight on some of the shadiest figures of the socialist regime.

These include members of the so-called Cartel of the Suns, the name given to the loose networks of transnational drug traffickers operating from the highest echelons of the Venezuelan government and military. (See InSight Crime’s diagram of corrupt government officials below). Among them is Interior Minister Reverol, who was appointed to his current position by Maduro the day after being indicted by the United States for allegedly participating in a transnational cocaine trafficking network.

SEE ALSO:  Cartel de los Soles News and Profile

Iris Varela, on the other hand, helped foster an organized criminal system much closer to home. As prisons chief under former President Hugo Chávez and later Maduro, Varela oversaw control of the country’s jails largely pass into the hands of the inmates themselves. This strengthened the power of the “pranes,” or the prison gang bosses, whose system of criminal governance eventually influenced the creation of the “mega-gangs” (“megabandas”) in Venezuela’s increasingly dangerous streets.

17-07-17-Venezuela-Varela

(Varela sparked controversy when she was photographed with a “pran” inside prison walls)

As InSight Crime has noted in the past, renewed US sanctions could energize domestic opposition and international pressure on the regime. But they could also place the Venezuelan government even further on the defensive as it takes extraordinary steps to maintain its delicate grip on power.

17-02-17-Venezuela-Gov-Drugs-insightcrime

(InSight Crime graphic taken from a February 2017 article)

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

KIDNAPPING / 11 DEC 2013

Four soldiers have been convicted of an "express" kidnapping in Venezuela, highlighting the participation of the security forces in the…

COLOMBIA / 21 MAY 2019

A violent criminal gang known as "La Línea" has triggered several deadly shootouts in battles with other armed groups seeking…

HUMAN RIGHTS / 26 JUL 2015

 The Venezuelan government mantains that a recently launched, massive security plan is intended to break the power that criminal gangs…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…