WASHINGTON — President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela was charged in the United States on Thursday with federal drug trafficking crimes after an investigation by federal authorities in Washington, New York and Florida, people briefed on the matter said.
The charges were expected to be announced Thursday morning at a live-streamed video news briefing by the head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division in Washington and the top federal prosecutors in New York and Miami, according to a news advisory.
In addition to Mr. Maduro, charges are also expected to be announced against nearly a dozen others, including the Venezuelan government and intelligence officials and members of the largest rebel group in Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, known as FARC, which has long drawn its financing from the cocaine trade.
Few details of the charges were not available early on Thursday, but the charges included narco-terrorism conspiracy and conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States.
The charges come a month after President Trump, in his State of the Union address, called Mr. Maduro “an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people,” and vowed that “Maduro’s grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken.”
For years, watchdog groups have accused Mr. Maduro’s close aides of working with drug lords to line their pockets and prop up the crumbling state. As the Venezuelan oil industry has collapsed, Mr. Maduro’s critics have said that the drug trade is playing an increasingly important role in keeping him in power.
Last year, Mr. Maduro’s former vice president, Tareck El Aissami, was indicted in federal court in Manhattan, accused of using his position of power to engage in international drug trafficking. He had been sanctioned by the United States following similar accusations two years before.
The Treasury Department has also accused Diosdado Cabello, the former president of the National Assembly and one of Mr. Maduro’s closest allies, of narcotics trafficking “and other corrupt activities.”
And two of Mr. Maduro’s nephews are serving prison sentences in the United States following convictions on drug charges. In that case, prosecutors said the nephews — sometimes called the “narcosobrinos” in Venezuela — attempted to bring in $20 million in drug money to assist their family in staying in power.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.
Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia.