Vladimir Padrino Lopez, the general whom the U.S. has linked as a member of Los Soles Cartel, has been Venezuela’s defense minister since 2014. Besides, he is the head of the Strategic Operational Command of the Venezuelan Armed Forces.
The military man, included in the most wanted list by the Department of State, is also accused of being part of the drug trafficking and terrorism scheme, headed by Maduro and other high-ranking officers, according to the White House.
Padrino became part of the chavism governments after remaining loyal to Chavez in the April 2002 coup, which removes from power the president Chavez for a couple of days.
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At that time, Padrino was commander of the Simon Bolivar Infantry Battalion, and since then, he has remained in high-power positions in the chavism.
Accusations indicate that Padrino used his power to allow cocaine shipments through a route that includes Venezuela, Central America, and the United States.
Although Padrino has said he remains loyal to the government of Maduro, U.S. security advisor John Bolton said that the general negotiated with the U.S. the removal from power of the questioned leader.
“Padrino, the president of the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice, Maikel Moreno, and the commander of the Presidential Honor Guard, Ivan Rafael Hernandez, have told the opposition that Maduro must leave, and asked them to act so that he does,” said Bolton in April 2019, reported El Comercio newspaper.
The statements were made after the military uprising that led to the released of the Voluntad Popular party leader Leopoldo Lopez.