Justice Department officials said on Thursday they are charging two men claiming to be relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with cocaine importation conspiracy.
Efraín Antonio Campo Flores, 29, and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, were arrested in Haiti on Tuesday and brought to the United States to face charges. The indictment describes them participating in meetings in Venezuela in October regarding a shipment of cocaine that was to be sent to the United States.
The men were charged with conspiring to import five or more kilograms of cocaine into the United States from a foreign country.
A hearing before a federal magistrate was scheduled for Thursday afternoon in New York. The case is being handled by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.
A spokeswoman at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Fabiola Herrera, said Thursday that the government had not yet issued a reaction to the reports about the arrests.
Maduro, who was traveling in Europe, had no direct comment on the charges. On Thursday morning, he tweeted: “The Fatherland will follow its Course, neither attacks, nor imperialist ambushes, will do anything to the People of the Liberators, we have one destiny . . . To triumph . . .”
Venezuela is an important trans-shipment point for cocaine going from Colombia to the United States and Europe. A number of Venezuelan officials, including a former defense minister and chief of military intelligence, face trafficking charges or sanctions in the United States. U.S. officials have said Venezuelan security forces participate in the trade. Venezuela’s government denies any support for drug trafficking. Venezuelan authorities in the past have shrugged off U.S. allegations as part of an effort to weaken the country’s socialist system.