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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro salutes as he arrives for the celebrations for the seventh anniversary of the Bolivarian Militia in Caracas on April 17, 2017. Venezuela's defence minister on Monday declared the army's loyalty to Maduro, who ordered troops into the streets ahead of a major protest by opponents trying to oust him. Venezuela is bracing for what Maduro's opponents vow will be the "mother of all protests" Wednesday, after two weeks of violent demos against moves by the leftist leader and his allies to tighten their grip on power. / AFP PHOTO / Federico PARRA (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

US draws disperate links between Venezuela, drugs, terrorism

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday charged a former Venezuelan lawmaker with taking part with President Nicolas Maduro in a scheme linked to South American and Middle Eastern militant groups to traffic cocaine and military grade weapons.

Federal prosecutors in New York also charged Adel al Zabayar, a 56-year-old former member of Venezuela’s National Assembly, with helping to recruit Hezbollah and Hamas operatives to plan attacks against U.S. targets.

They said in court papers filed in Manhattan that he worked with the Venezuelan criminal organization the Cártel de Los Soles, or “Cartel of the Suns” in English, and Colombian militant group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, better known by the acronym FARC.

“El Zabayar was part of the unholy alliance of government, military, and FARC members using violence and corruption to further their narco-terrorist aims,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement. “The Cártel de Los Soles sought to recruit terrorists from Hezbollah and Hamas to assist in planning and carrying out attacks on the U.S., and … El Zabayar was instrumental as a go-between.”

U.S. prosecutors indicted Maduro and over a dozen current and former Venezuelan officials on charges of narco-terrorism and drug smuggling in March. Maduro has dismissed the charges as a politically motivated fabrication by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

A U.S. law enforcement official said El Zabayar was not in American custody.

Source: Reuters

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