By Samuel Morales Escuela.
The Supreme Court of the United States rejected the appeal of the lawyers of Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, nephew of Cilia Flores, ratifying Tuesday, October 6, the sentence of 2017 that convicted him to 18 years in prison for the smuggling of 800 kilograms of cocaine. The other nephew of the first lady, Efrain Antonio Campos Flores, is also condemned for the same act.
But, it is not the first time that the US country has convicted or sanctioned relatives, officials, or the Venezuelan presidential couple themselves.
El Pitazo summarizes in keys points the most striking sanctions in recent years against Nicolas Maduro, Cilia Flores, and their relatives:
- 2008-2013: The Bush and Obama administrations began sanctioning Chavista officials with the administration of Hugo Chávez. The old Army buddy of Chávez, Hugo Carvajal Peck, was the first sanction in 2008.
- In November 2016, Donald Trump got elected as the 45th president of the United States. During his campaign, Trump promised to help restore democracy to Cuba and Venezuela.
- On May 19, 2017, the Department of the Treasury sanctioned Supreme Court Chief justice, Maikel Moreno, a polemical former policeman turned lawyer and then judge, along with the seven members of the Constitutional Chamber of that Court.
- On July 31, 2017, one day after the elections of the National Constituent Assembly, the Treasury penalized Nicolas Maduro and froze all his assets subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The US and the local opposition say the electoral process of the Constituent Assembly was a fraud.
- On November 9, 2017, the US again sanctioned 10 Maduro government officials involved in the Constituent elections.
- On December 15, 2017, Cilia Flores’ nephews were sentenced to 18 years in prison for smuggling 800 kilograms of cocaine. They had been in custody since late 2015.
- On January 22, 2018, a new list published up against six other officials, among then the current president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, the Attorney General, Tareek Saab, the Minister of Justice and Peace, Nestor Reverol, the chief of the Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence, Gustavo Gonzalez, and the head of government of the Capital District, Antonio Benavides,
- On March 19, 2018, Donald Trump prohibited operations with the virtual cryptocurrency of Maduro, the Petro. The US described the scheme as a scam.
- On May 18, 2018, the United States announced a package of economic sanctions against Diosdado Cabello. “We impose sanctions on figures like Diosdado Cabello, who exploit their official position to engage in drug trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities,” said the US Secretary of State Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
- On September 25, 2018, the Treasury announced sanctions against Cilia Flores and three others close to Nicolas Maduro: Delcy Rodriguez, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, and Jorge Rodriguez. Their property and interest in the United States came under the control of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). “Don’t mess with the family, don’t be a coward,” Maduro taunted at the time.
- On June 28, 2019, it was the turn for Nicolas Ernesto Maduro Guerra (aka Nicolasito), son of Nicolas Maduro. Nicolasito did not seem to comprehend the seriousness of the measure, tweeting later that same day that he was the youngest person ever to be the US sanctioned.
- On July 25, 2019, the Treasury sanctioned another ten persons linked to the Venezuelan government, freezing their assets and leaving all their transactions blocked in the North American country. On the blacklist were Cilia Flores’ three sons: Walter, Yosser, and Yoswal Gavidia Flores.
- Although the Treasury Department has frozen multiple assets of Venezuelans close to Maduro, the court case of Cilia Flores’ nephews represents the biggest international scandal surrounding the presidential couple in five years. Franqui Flores de Freitas was arrested with Efrain Antonio Campo Flores on November 10, 2015, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which executed an undercover operation.