By Harriet Alexander | The Telegraph
Nestor Reverol, a long-term Chavista and current head of the country’s border guard, could be charged by America with drug trafficking, Reuters reports. It would be a serious blow to Nicolas Maduro’s regime
American prosecutors are reportedly preparing to charge one of Venezuela’s most senior officials with drug trafficking, as the screws tighten on a regime long described by critics as a “narco state”.
On Thursday two nephews of President Nicolas Maduro’s wife will appear in court in Manhattan charged with attempting to import 800kgs of cocaine into the United States.
And prosecutors in the New York district of Brooklyn are said to be preparing charges against an even bigger fish – Nestor Reverol, the head of the National Guard, which controls the country’s borders.
It would mark the first time that charges are made against a serving member of the government.
“The National Guard has been key to opening up the doors into Venezuela for Colombian drug trafficking organisations and subversive groups,” said Mike Vigil, the former head of the Drugs Enforcement Agency’s international operations.
“They have transformed Venezuela into a massive pipeline for cocaine into the United States and Europe.”
Up to a quarter of all cocaine exported from South America in 2011 departed from Venezuela, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The possible charges against Mr Reverol were not detailed by Reuters, which spoke to sources close to the case. Nor did they state when the charges will be made. The case is being pursued by Robert Capers, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the news agency said.
When asked by The Telegraph about possible charges, a spokesman for Mr Capers said they were unable to comment.
But Mr Reverol, a long-time ally of late president Hugo Chavez, has long brushed off accusations of drug trafficking.
He insists that his agency is stopping the deals, not facilitating them.
His Twitter feed mixes retweets of fiery “anti imperialist” rhetoric from Mr Maduro with pictures of his men seizing drug shipments.
On Thursday he was proudly tweeting that the National Guard had found 398kg of cocaine in Cojedes state, hidden in a lorry. Pictures showed the sniffer dogs pouncing on the load.
A month before he tweeted that 110kg of cocaine had been found in Anzoategui state, in a specially modified car. Days before that, he had crowed over 230kgs of cocaine found in Trujillo state.
But America has long-suspected high-level officers of being in cahoots with the cartels, and with hotly-contested December 6 parliamentary elections out of the way, it is believed that more charges could be coming.
In January Leamsy Salazar, Chavez’s former bodyguard, arrived in the country accompanied by DEA agents, having agreed to defect from Venezuela.
Then in May the Wall Street Journal claimed that the US was preparing charges against Diosdado Cabello, the influential current president of the National Assembly. Mr Salazar had been his bodyguard, too, after Chavez’s death.
Last week Spanish newspaper ABC reported that trafficking charges could be made this week against a group of Venezuelan generals. The New York and Miami prosecutors are said to have been assisted in their building of the case by Colombian informants and current detainees.
Mr Maduro dismisses charges of official involvement in drug trafficking as an international right-wing campaign to discredit socialism in Venezuela.
His Socialist Party says drug interdiction efforts have improved since Venezuela expelled the DEA in 2005.