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‘New way of staging a coup’: Venezuelan FM blasts US for narco-terrorism charges against Maduro

Washington’s decision to indict Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on drug charges is “a new form of coup d’etat,” as well as a move to win over hispanic voters in Florida, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has claimed.

The US Justice Department unsealed indictments against Maduro and more than a dozen Venezuelan political and military leaders on Thursday, accusing them of “narco-terrorism,” and implicating them in a plot to “flood the United States with cocaine.” Additionally, the State Department announced a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the Venezuelan leader, and rewards of up to $10 million for each of his co-defendants.

Responding later on Thursday, Arreaza said that the indictments show the “desperation” of the “Washington elite,” and their “obsession” with the Latin American country.

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The Trump administration does not consider Maduro’s government legitimate, and has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president” since his attempted coup last year.

However, efforts to dislodge Maduro from power – which ranged from economic sanctions to an international campaign to promote Guaido’s legitimacy, to veiled threats of military action – have thus far failed. According to Arreaza, the drug charges are simply “a new form of coup d’etat.”

Arreaza added on Thursday that he believes the Justice Department’s real aim with the latest indictments is to reap “electoral returns” for Trump in the state of Florida. Southern Florida has the highest population of Venezuelans in the United States, at more than 100,000. The state is also home to more than a million Cuban-Americans, many of whom fled their home country during the rule of Fidel Castro, and hold an unfavorable view of Maduro, an ally of Cuba.

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Maduro himself has not yet responded to the charges, but his supporters in the region have condemned Washington for the move. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales – himself removed from power in a coup last year – called the indictments an attempt to “intimidate the legal and legitimate government of Venezuela,” with the goal of getting American hands on the country’s vast oil reserves.

Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was more colloquial in his condemnation. “Trump really is nuts, or just looking to distract attention from his lousy handling of the health crisis,” the ex-leader tweeted.

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