The news hit Miami and its Latino diaspora like a breath of fresh justice: Venezuelan President* Nicolas Maduro and other government officials have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice. The charges range from narco-terrorism conspiracy to money laundering, and, in short, they’re accused of conspiring to ship tons of Bolivian marching powder to the U.S., where apparently the demand has always been high for that kind of stuff. If they’re ever tried before a jury of their peers, chances are they will never get to eat a pabellon again.
There’s a $15 million bounty on Maduro’s head, and an additional $10 million for each of his confederates. The DEA was offering only $5 million for El Chapo, so apparently they really mean business, and perhaps they know a lot that we plebs don’t (e.g., Venezuelan Generals finally running out of cash for the gumars and they can also see the writing on the wall).** At minimum, when an indictment of this magnitude comes down, it means that at least a lot of people have been singing for a while.
It’s a big deal that the DOJ finally did this – a federal agent once said that the government is like a tanker, they’re huge and slow, but it always eventually gets there– but let’s get practical. The feds have always indicted people outside the premises. Hell, they’ve even gone to a quintessential haven like Zurich and had the local fuzz collar well-to-do FIFA officials out of a 5 star hotel. But aside from the defendants travelling outside “their” country, what fat chance does the government have of landing them before a federal magistrate?
The FIFA reference is not tangential, because every single person that was brought out of that hotel in cuffs was not a Swiss national. Had they stayed at home in their corrupt radius, things may have been different and to their benefit when it came to their collaring. But these were not the alleged violent drug-trafficking thugs that are the subject of the DOJ’s indictment. These Venezuelan defendants are probably career criminals, who usually have a heightened sense of paranoia, and who will never again venture outside tierra de gracia, given the state of affairs at Main Justice. Hell, they may have already (gasp!) consulted with competent defense counsel and have been told to stay the hell home, and not for COVID-19 reasons.
So, aside from extraction, how is the DOJ planning to put these folks inside an FDC facility? Venezuela still has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but the chances of them extraditing one of their own are nil. Aside from the U.S. sending a SEAL Team Six to get Maduro from, how do Maduro et. al., end up on PACER as criminal defendants? Aside from getting most co-defendants to flip, as they will, what’s the point of the government indicting Maduro and his bad company if they won’t end up being escorted into a U.S. courtroom?
As of now, at least one of Maduro’s co-defendants** has jumped ship and is coming stateside to give the goods on him to the DEA, but that will not bring Maduro to “justice.” There’ll be plenty more who will turn on him, and by the time Maduro’s second superseding indictment is drafted in the SDNY, there’ll be more cooperating informants, sources, and co-defendants. But the government still needs that warm body sitting at the defense table. And by the time that day comes, much more harm will have been done by Maduro and his goons.***
Also, on a geopolitical note, Venezuela is surrounded by Colombia and Brazil, who are major partners with the U.S., but what are the chances either of them takes a chance and repays the U.S. takes a brief venture into Venezuela so it can deliver the DEA its latest “El Chapo” fix. Bringing it back full circle, one’s got to wonder what AG Barr’s strategy is with all this, given the times.
*Maduro is not recognized as the legitimate president of Venezuela by most countries, but this is not a political post, so he will be referred to as such.
**As of 2 days ago, one general who had a $10 million bounty on his head agreed to waive extradition from Barranquilla and is cooperating with the government. The wagons are circling, folks.
***For personal reasons, given the right circumstances, I would cut Maduro’s heart out with a spoon. But should his – or his also presumed innocent cohorts’ – constitutional rights be violated in the least bit, I’d be up in arms. And I hope they’ll hire a kick-ass imperialista gringo CDL to help them fight back, and perhaps win against the government. Principles, how do they work?