According to a report by ABC España, the United States plans to bring formal drug trafficking charges against half a dozen high-ranking Venezuelan military officials, including multiple generals.
US officials -- who did not want to influence Venezuela's recent parliamentary elections -- will make the announcement within the week, the report cited two US federal prosecutors as saying.
According to the report, the charges are not linked to the recent drug trafficking arrests of two men related to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The two are set to face trial in the Unites States on December 17.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although ABC España's report has yet to be confirmed by US officials or other media outlets, the suggestion that US authorities are moving to formally charge high-ranking Venezuela military officials with drug trafficking fits with recent events.
The United States has long suspected that some members of the Venezuelan government are involved in drug trafficking, as evidenced by the inclusion of multiple civilian and military officials on the US "Kingpin" list. US officials are also likely aware of the numerous reports on the existence of "Cartel of the Suns" (Cartel de los Soles), which refers to drug trafficking groups within the Venezuelan military.
SEE ALSO: Cartel de los Soles News and Profile
US investigators have also likely been aided by potential inside sources, such as former Venezuelan presidential security chief Leamsy Salazar, and possibly even Maduro's recently captured relatives Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas. Salazar defected to the United States in late 2014 and is reportedly working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Reports also indicate Maduro's relatives are speaking extensively with US authorities.
Additionally, US authorities have already set a precedent of taking action against Venezuelan officials. In March, the United States sanctioned seven government officials over human rights violations and is currently investigating Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA over possible money laundering.
The US bringing charges against a group of military officials could impact Venezuelan politics in various ways. On one hand, Venezuela's opposition coalition has gained a supermajority in the National Assembly. This supermajority will allow the opposition to strip legislators of immunity and replace members of the judiciary, which, in turn, could make prosecution of high-ranking officials easier.
At the same time, the Maduro administration is practiced in reframing events to fit their own narrative. Maduro will likely depict any drug trafficking charges against the Venezuelan military as further evidence of US imperialist attempts to undermine his government. This would endear Maduro to one of his last supporters, the military. In a worst case scenario, this could eventually set up Venezuela for a shift towards an even less democratic form of rule.