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Venezuelan lawmaker accuses U.S. of kidnapping president's relatives

The DEA launched a drug-trafficking investigation into Diosdado Cabello in May.

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuelan lawmaker accuses U.S. of kidnapping president's relatives
Diosdado Cabello, leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, accused the United States of kidnapping relatives of President Nicolás Maduro after the DEA arrested two nephews of first lady Cilia Flores. Cabello, the National Assembly president, who himself is often accused of involvement in drug trafficking, said the "irregular" arrests were carried out to damage the country's socialist revolution under the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. 6. Photo courtesy of the Venezuelan National Assembly.

CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Diosdado Cabello, leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, accused the United States of kidnapping relatives of President Nicolás Maduro after the DEA arrested two nephews of first lady Cilia Flores.

Francisco Flores de Freites, 30, and Efraín Campo Flores, 29, were arrested last week by the Drug Enforcement Administration during a sting operation in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The men were caught allegedly attempting to finalize a deal to transport about 1,700 pounds of cocaine from Haiti to the United States and were each charged with one count of drug trafficking on Thursday.

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The indictment against them accuses the men of conspiring to import more than 11 pounds of "mixtures and substances containing a detectable amount of cocaine."

Cabello, the National Assembly president, who himself is often accused of involvement in drug trafficking, said the "irregular" arrests were carried out to damage the country's socialist revolution under the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. 6.

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"They did it during the electoral campaign to attempt to cause harm to the revolution," Cabello told Globovisión on Monday. "They say that one of those people was raised by the president. I can assure you that's a lie."

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As the two men were being arrested, they declared themselves as relatives of Venezuela's first lady and said they had diplomatic immunity. Both had Venezuelan diplomatic passports.

"I do not see it as a detention, in truth, a plane went to Haiti, it went with six people and they kidnapped two of them," Cabello added. "It is very irregular what the DEA has done in this case ... how a plane involved with drugs was returned immediately to Venezuela, how the other people were released immediately and only took the two."

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Cabello said it would be "impossible" to link the actions of these two men to "someone who has no relationship with them," adding to the interviewer that "neither you nor I can be aware of what our nephews do."

Cabello said he has received no information from Venezuelan intelligence agencies indicating the two men were involved in drug trafficking, previously declaring the case against them as "fabricated."

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in May the DEA launched a drug-trafficking investigation into Cabello and several other high-ranking Venezuelan politicians.

Spain's ABC daily newspaper published an article in January reporting Leamsy Salazar, Cabello's former head of security, implicated Cabello as one of the alleged leaders of the drug trafficking group Cartel of the Suns. In May, the Venezuelan government prohibited 22 media executives from leaving the country for publishing the report accusing Cabello of drug trafficking.

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Cabello: Detención de 2 venezolanos en Haití es... by Globovision

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