Tags: Venezuela | venezuela | drug | smuggling | probe | bodyguard | defects

Ex-Bodyguard of Venezuelan Pol in Cocaine Smuggling Case Defects

By    |   Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 10:40 PM

A former bodyguard for Venezuela's second-most powerful man — a leader of its congress and the nation's military wing — has defected to the United States to cooperate in a drug-trafficking probe, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Leamsy Salazar — who also was a bodyguard for the late president Hugo Chavez — is in Washington to provide testimony implicating Diosdado Cabello's alleged role in cocaine-smuggling operations controlled by Venezuela’s military, the Journal reported, citing two unidentified sources.

U.S. authorities are looking to indict Cabello on drug charges, the Journal reports.

The Journal cited one source saying Salazar had been in talks with U.S. officials for about two months.

"There’s a lot of good information," the source told The Journal. "In the past people have said, 'I've heard this and I've heard that,' which is fine for getting an indictment but doesn’t work for prosecution. Leamsy will be able to testify as someone who was there."

Venezuelan officials counter that the turncoat wants to destabilize President Nicolás Maduro's government, which is being rocked by economic woes, high inflation, and shortages of basics in the oil-rich country, the Journal reports.

The government — calling its economic woes the result of an "economic war" orchestrated by the United States and its allies — took to Twitter to blast allegations against Cabello "lies of the right" while Maduro praised him, according to the Journal.

"@NicolasMaduro appoints @dcabellor to investigate the Economic War and the U.S. attacks him…!" the president retweeted.

For his part, Cabello tweeted "every attack against my character strengthens my spirit and my commitment," the Journal reports.

"With the threats, infamy, intrigue that we’ve lived in these years of revolution, we’ve learned to navigate the storms with high morals," he wrote, the Journal reports.

The United States claims Venezuela is a major hub for smuggling cocaine to the country and Europe. Venezuela denies it, the Journal says.

"The [United States] has an enormous interest in making a strong showing that the drug trade is significant, with the collaboration from high levels in the Venezuelan government," Javier Corrales, a political-science professor at Amherst College, told The Journal.

"There is a sense that the right approach is to create legal problems for individual figures and to avoid a public show of diplomatic words, state-to-state."

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A former bodyguard for Venezuela's second-most powerful man — a leader of its congress and the nation's military wing — has defected to the United States to cooperate in a drug-trafficking probe, The Wall Street Journal reports.
venezuela, drug, smuggling, probe, bodyguard, defects, Cabello
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2015-40-27
Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 10:40 PM
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