Nephews of Venezuela's first lady in trouble with smuggling

Two nephews of Nicolás Maduro’s powerful wife Cilia Flores have been detained for drug smuggling in New York

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela with his wife, Cilia Flores.

Updated Nov 15, 2015

Franqui Francisco Flores-de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo-Flores who are the nephews of Venezuela first lady Cilia Flores have been arrested for smuggling 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

According to two sources linked to the Flores family, both two nephews arrived on a private plane in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and smuggled 800 kilograms of cocaine into the US. Then, they were detained in New York on Tuesday night.

The arrest of two nephews for smuggling caused even more trouble for already battered US-Venezuela relations.

Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank “The timing is hardly ideal” said in an email after the incident of arrest.

“The arrests could give Maduro the excuse he was hoping for to declare a state of emergency and postpone the elections. He will blame the arrests on US imperialism and see them as an attempt to undermine his government,” Shifter said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denies all charges and he said this is a kind of smear campaign against the Socialist Party.

President Maduro ordered on Aug. 19 the shutdown of the two major border crossings, declaring a state of emergency to fight against smuggling.

"To clean up paramilitary activity, crime, smuggling, kidnapping and drug trafficking, I have decided to close the border for zone number two in the state of Tachira," Maduro had said before.

There was no official document or explanation available on Wednesday, and attorney Preet Bharara, a spokeswoman for US, did not give any details about charging.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not also make any comment about the incident and charging.

Smuggling has become a profitable business in Venezuela in recent years. The Venezuelan government regulates many basic goods that are smuggled into Colombia.

According to official figures, up to 40 percent of basic goods and 100,000 barrels of gasoline per day are smuggled, for a total loss of US $3.6 billion per year.

Venezuelan population is about 30 million, and 5.6 million of whom are Colombians fleeing war and economic hardship from their country in past decades.

TRTWorld and agencies