Reporters Juan Forero and José de Córdoba in The Wall Street Journal have written an important expose titled "Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez Worked to Flood U.S. With Cocaine, U.S. Prosecutors Say" on the role played by the late Venezuelan strong man in flooding the United States with deadly drugs.

The report is based on documents provided by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. The article describes how Chavez called together top government officials and members of the Colombian guerilla group, the FARC, to coordinate their smuggling efforts.

In 2005, Mr. Chávez convened a small group of his top officials to discuss plans to ship cocaine to the U.S. with help from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said a participant in the meeting who, at the time, was a justice on Venezuela’s supreme court, according to the papers. The Bush administration was strongly criticizing his governing style then and had publicly approved of a 2002 coup that failed to oust him.

“During the meeting, Chávez urged the group, in substance and in part, to promote his policy objectives, including to combat the United States by ‘flooding’ the country with cocaine,” said an affidavit in the documents written by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent. The former supreme court justice was identified as Eladio Aponte, who fled to the U.S. in 2012 and has been a witness on drug cases, said a person familiar with his role in the investigations.

Chavez died of cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has continued this practice, and family members have been caught smuggling cocaine.

Reuters reported on December 14, 2017 "two nephews of Venezuela’s first lady were sentenced to 18 years in prison following their convictions in New York on U.S. drug trafficking charges."

Nicolas Maduro and his wife's nephews in custody for drug smuggling.

Nicolas Maduro and his wife's nephews in custody for drug smuggling.

There are those who ask, what is the motive for the Chavista regime in Venezuela to flood the United States with cocaine? The answer requires a broader and strategic look through the perspective of the Chavista regime in Venezuela and the Castro regime in Cuba.

This was not about obtaining hard currency for either regime to survive.

Between 1960 and 1987 the Castro regime received massive and increasing Soviet subsidies and at the same time engaged in massive arms smuggling and drug trafficking in the service of ideological objectives that sought to strike at the soft underbelly of the United States.

The results of this decades long effort can be seen in reports on rising drug use in the US military and the wider American populace. This has translated into members of elite military units with drug addictions committing suicide. Flooding the United States with drugs is an effective way to reduce military readiness and undermine society at large.

Captured WASP Network members

Captured WASP Network members

When the FBI broke up the Wasp Network in 1998 it was discovered that they were "compiling the names, home addresses, and medical files of the U.S. Southern Command’s top officers and that of hundreds of officers stationed at Boca Chica Naval Station in Key West."

Castro’s spy networks monitoring personnel at U.S. military facilities would most likely be looking at their readiness, weaknesses, and ways to compromise military personnel.   Readily available cocaine is a good way to compromise readiness, cause more addiction that provides opportunities to have leverage over soldiers.

On the other side of the ledger, the monies obtained were used to purchase weapons for guerillas to overthrow governments in Latin America.

Guevara and Allende discussed setting up narcotics ring to smuggle drugs to the US in 1961

Guevara and Allende discussed setting up narcotics ring to smuggle drugs to the US in 1961

Castro's documented role in drug trafficking dates back to at least 1961 and the start of the Cuban revolution. According to a Drug Enforcement Agency intelligence report released in 1982, a meeting was held in Havana in 1961 between Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Moises Crespo (Cuban Secret Police) and Salvador Allende, to create a narcotics network to smuggle drugs to the United States.

On March 1, 1982 the Cuban dictatorship was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was less than 3 months after the US State Department confirmed that the Castro regime was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group.

M19 guerillas in Colombia backed by Castro

M19 guerillas in Colombia backed by Castro

In 1982 the United Press International reported that four high ranking Cuban officials were indicted by the United States for operating drug ring: Aldo Santamaria-Cuadrado, head of the Cuban Navy and Communist Central Committee member; Fernando Ravelo-Renedo, Ambassador to Colombia; Gonzalo Bassols-Suarez, former staff at Cuban embassy in Colombia; and Rene Rodriguez-Cruz, Central Committee member and president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People.

Fidel Castro mediated dispute between Medellin cartel and Noriega

Fidel Castro mediated dispute between Medellin cartel and Noriega

During Panamanian strongman General Manuel Noriega's 1992 trial information emerged publicly implicating Cuba in drug trafficking that the Sun Sentinel reported at the time:

"Federal prosecutors say Noriega traveled to Havana to ask [Fidel] Castro to mediate a potentially deadly dispute with top members of Colombia`s Medellin cocaine cartel. They say the cartel chiefs were upset because a major drug lab had been seized in Panama despite payment of millions of dollars in protection money to Noriega. According to the Noriega indictment, Castro negotiated a peace accord between the cartel and Noriega at the 1984 meeting. The allegation forms a cornerstone of the racketeering and drug trafficking charges against Noriega."

At the same time convicted cartel leader Carlos Lehder implicated Raul Castro and U.S. fugitive Robert Vesco "to route cocaine flights through Cuba." Capitol Hill Cubans blogged how two years later, a federal indictment listed General Raul Castro as part of a conspiracy that smuggled seven and a half tons of cocaine into the United States over a 10-year period.

Castro provided Chavez  protection and advice  to consolidate power.

Castro provided Chavez protection and advice to consolidate power.

Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post reported on Venezuela, the FARC, Cuba trafficking axis on May 24, 2015 in the article "A drug cartel’s power in Venezuela":

Ever since Colombian commandos captured the laptop of a leader of the FARC organization eight years ago, it’s been known that Chávez gave the Colombian narcoguerrillas sanctuary and allowed them to traffic cocaine from Venezuela to the United States with the help of the Venezuelan army. But not until a former Chávez bodyguard [ Leamsy Salazar] defected to the United States in January [2015] did the scale of what is called the “Cartel of the Suns ” start to become publicly known. [...] The day after Salazar’s arrival in Washington, Spain’s ABC newspaper published a detailed account of the emerging case against Cabello, and last month, ABC reporter Emili Blasco followed up with a book laying out the allegations of Salazar and other defectors, who say Cuba’s communist regime and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah have been cut in on the trafficking."

Consider the following: the Castro regime provides safe haven for the FARC in Cuba because it has appeared in Wikileaks. The close relationship between the regimes in Havana and Caracas has been long and well documented. Tens of thousands of Cuban advisers have been operating in Venezuela for years. Drugs are flooding into the United States at unprecedented levels fueling overdoses and an epidemic endangering American lives.

Why is this not news?

The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2019

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez Worked to Flood U.S. With Cocaine, U.S. Prosecutors Say

Documents prepared by U.S. federal prosecutors outline for the first time the possible role of the former Venezuelan president in drug trafficking

In 2005, Hugo Chávez convened a small group of his top officials to discuss plans to ship cocaine to the U.S. with help from the FARC. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In 2005, Hugo Chávez convened a small group of his top officials to discuss plans to ship cocaine to the U.S. with help from the FARC. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

By Juan Forero and José de Córdoba

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in the mid-2000s ordered his top lieutenants to work with Colombian Marxist guerrillas to flood the U.S. with cocaine in his government’s efforts to combat the Bush administration, according to U.S. documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal that shed new light on the leftist regime’s struggle with Washington.

The documents, prepared by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, outline for the first time the possible role of Mr. Chávez, an icon of the Latin American left who died from cancer in 2013, in drug trafficking. They assert that several leaders who served Mr. Chávez and remain in key posts in Venezuela’s regime today wielded cocaine trafficking as a weapon against their ideological adversary, the U.S.

In 2005, Mr. Chávez convened a small group of his top officials to discuss plans to ship cocaine to the U.S. with help from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said a participant in the meeting who, at the time, was a justice on Venezuela’s supreme court, according to the papers. The Bush administration was strongly criticizing his governing style then and had publicly approved of a 2002 coup that failed to oust him.

“During the meeting, Chávez urged the group, in substance and in part, to promote his policy objectives, including to combat the United States by ‘flooding’ the country with cocaine,” said an affidavit in the documents written by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent. The former supreme court justice was identified as Eladio Aponte, who fled to the U.S. in 2012 and has been a witness on drug cases, said a person familiar with his role in the investigations.

The Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro, who was handpicked by Mr. Chávez to succeed him, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The documents were filed in a court in Spain by U.S. officials who are seeking the extradition of Hugo Carvajal, a former general who headed Mr. Chávez’s military intelligence directorate, on drug trafficking charges. Mr. Carvajal, who was briefly detained in Aruba in 2014 on a U.S. indictment, was arrested in Madrid in April while traveling there on a false passport, officials say.

First reported by El Mundo, a Madrid newspaper, the documents assert that Mr. Chávez and other leaders in the government collaborated with high-ranking military and judicial officials to ease the movement of cocaine from Colombia through Venezuela and on to the U.S. The documents don’t lay out if a specific delivery of cocaine ordered by Mr. Chávez made it to U.S. shores, but the prosecutors allege that Venezuelan officials took actions that greatly enabled drug traffickers.

As part of an alliance with the FARC, the affidavit says Venezuela’s government discussed dividing drug profits while providing the rebels with weapons to fight the Colombian government. The American officials characterized the Venezuelan military officers as a gang called the “Cartel of the Suns”—a reference to the insignia used by Venezuelan generals.

“The objectives of the Cartel of the Suns included not only enriching its members but also using cocaine as a weapon against the United States due to the adverse effects of the drug on individual users and the potential for broader societal harm,” said a superseding indictment against Mr. Carvajal, one of the documents sent to the Spanish court.

Former Venezuelan intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal stands during his extradition hearing to the U.S. in Spain, on Sept. 12. Photo: Emilio Naranjo/press pool

Former Venezuelan intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal stands during his extradition hearing to the U.S. in Spain, on Sept. 12. Photo: Emilio Naranjo/press pool

A longtime Venezuelan prosecutor now in exile in Colombia said in an interview that Venezuela began to emerge as a platform for U.S.-bound cocaine after Mr. Chávez broke off relations with the DEA, an assertion made in the American documents filed in Spain. The Colombian cocaine was shipped out from Venezuela via its airports and ports, said Zair Mundaray, the prosecutor. He said politics was a motivating factor for the Venezuelan leadership.

“Chávez was very orthodox from the perspective that everything was on the table in the fight against the enemy,” said Mr. Mundaray, once the No. 2 in the Venezuelan attorney general’s office.

A former senior U.S. official who was shown the documents filed in Spain said it was the first time he had seen American authorities alleging that Mr. Chávez’s sponsorship of drug trafficking constituted a formal strategy to debilitate the U.S. “That said, it makes sense for a regime that has long seen itself in an asymmetric war with us,” said the former official.

The affidavit says that coordination between the guerrillas and the Venezuelan government to traffic cocaine was discussed in meetings with Mr. Carvajal that included Diosdado Cabello, a close Chávez ally now considered to be the Maduro regime’s second most powerful man, and Tareck El Aissami, also a current top official. At one meeting, Mr. Cabello described sea and land drug trafficking routes through Venezuela, the documents showed. At another, Mr. Carvajal said coordination with the “comrades,” meaning the FARC, was going well.

Mr. Carvajal and Mr. Cabello in 2013 sent off speed boats loaded with what appeared to be cocaine from a beach in western Venezuela, according to another witness in the papers identified as Leamsy Salazar by a person familiar with the investigation. Mr. Salazar, then part of Mr. Cabello’s security detail, defected to the U.S. in 2015.

Mr. Cabello and Mr. El Aissami, who have both been blacklisted by the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking, have publicly said they are innocent. They didn’t return requests for comment.

The documents outline how one drug shipment involving 5.6 tons of cocaine was carefully planned but ended in disaster in 2006 when a DC-9 ferrying the drugs en route to the U.S. was forced to land in Campeche, Mexico, because of mechanical problems. Police arrested the pilots and seized the cocaine.

At a 2008 meeting at a ranch in which Mr. Chávez was meeting with FARC guerrilla commander Luciano Marin, the president called Mr. Carvajal by phone and told him to provide weapons to the guerrillas, according to Mr. Salazar, the former bodyguard.

At the meeting, Mr. Chávez also told Mr. Marin that funds provided by Petróleos de Venezuela, the country’s state oil company, would pay for uniforms, computers and boats needed by the guerrillas. Mr. Salazar said he also overheard Mr. Chávez on the call with Mr. Carvajal say that some of the weapons to be provided to the guerrillas had been used previously be the Venezuelan army while others had been acquired from Russia. Requests for comment at the oil company weren’t returned.

Last month, Mr. Marin, a top negotiator of the peace agreement signed between the guerrillas and the Colombian government in 2016, publicly announced he was again taking up arms against the Colombian government. Shortly before Mr. Marin’s announcement, President Maduro had publicly declared that he and another guerrilla commander were “leaders of peace” who would be welcomed in Venezuela.

Write to Juan Forero at Juan.Forero@wsj.com and José de Córdoba at jose.decordoba@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-hugo-chavez-worked-to-flood-u-s-with-cocaine-u-s-prosecutors-say-11568557780?shareToken=stcbec8243ffe941b98e8d4c4327ac6866