The United States has further increased pressure on Venezuela’s President Maduro. On Thursday, Maduro was charged with drug trafficking. Moreover, the United States is paying up to $15 million in rewards for his capture as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced.

Details of the Drug Trafficking Charges

Maduro and the other defendants have been charged by the U.S. judiciary with leading a drug trafficking ring since at least 1999. In addition to Maduro, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, the country’s Supreme Judge Maikel Moreno, army officials, and two Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia aka FARC) leaders are also being charged.

The US judiciary has long planned to indict Maduro, according to US Attorney General Bill Barr. Maduro is accused of working with Colombian drug cartels to “flood the United States with cocaine,” which the Justice Department has labeled “narco-terrorism.” The Maduro regime is “full of corruption and crime,” said Barr.

Barr also stated that Maduro and other Venezuelan leaders had worked with the now-defunct Colombian FARC guerrillas for over two decades. The group was responsible for the export up to 250 tons of cocaine across the US border per year.

Prosecutor: Maduro Used Cocaine as a Weapon Against the United States

Chief Prosecutor Geoffrey Berman said Maduro sought to “flood” the US with cocaine to harm the health and wellbeing of the nation. Maduro had deliberately used cocaine as a “weapon” against the USA.

The indictment of a current head of state is a rare occurrence and thus a new apogee of escalation between the US government and the Maduro regime. The United States has repeatedly accused Maduro of turning his own country into a “drug swamp” to offset US sanctions on the country’s oil sector.

The United States and many allies, including European countries, seek to force Maduro out of the office and instead officially recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president. Guaido appointed himself interim president in January last year and has been fighting for power with Maduro ever since. A rapid change in Caracas with the help of the Venezuelan military was initially expected. Guaidó denies Maduro’s legitimization as head of state because his re-election did not meet democratic standards. So far, he has not been able to prevail against Maduro, however  ⁠— above all because the Venezuelan military has remained loyal to the president ⁠— as have Russia and China.

The oil-rich Venezuela is in the grip of a dramatic economic crisis under Maduro’s socialist leadership and tough US sanctions, among others against the Venezuelan financial system, the state’s oil company and the Maduro government. Many people have fled the country, while many of those who have remained are suffering under severe poverty.

Maduro: Trump is a ‘Racist Creep’

Maduro responded to the charges by the United States almost immediately and called President Trump a “creep”, a “cowboy” and a “racist” during a televised speech, while also accusing the US president of utilizing extortion methods in international relations. Maduro also denied the charges brought against him. The whole “extremist” indictment was based on “false accusations”, he stated.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza also attacked Donald Trump and accused him of “once again attacking the Venezuelan people and their democratic institutions”. The actions taken by the United States was nothing more than an attempt to commit “a new form of coup d’état”.

The opposition, meanwhile, welcomed the indictment. “Maduro stands for drug trafficking, Maduro stands for organized crime,” said Julio Borges, the country’s representative for opposition leader and president-in-waiting Juan Guaidó.

While it remains highly unlikely that Maduro will ever see the inside of a US courtroom, the measures taken will increase the pressure on him severely. Most importantly, one can rest assured that the indictment will not be the last attempt by the US to unseat Maduro ⁠— indeed, even in the current crisis American policy remains determined to oust Maduro and facilitate a Guaidó presidency.