CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela said on Tuesday it had arrested two former military officers on drug charges including one man linked by the government to Mexico's Sinaloa cartel & wanted by the United States.
Foreign & local critics allege Venezuela's socialist government, under current President Nicolas Maduro & former leader Hugo Chavez, has been abetting cocaine shipments from neighboring Colombia to the United States & Europe.
But officials here say that is a lie, intended to justify U.S.-led hostility toward the government, & point to arrests such as those of the two former military officers at an army roadblock on Monday as evidence of Venezuela's anti-drugs zeal.
p> The best-known of the two detainees is retired captain Vassyly Villarroel, 43, who headed a trafficking group called "The 40s Cartel", said a statement from the Interior Ministry.
He was wanted for drug crimes & money-laundering in the United States & was a financier of the Sinaloa cartel, the statement added. "He is responsible for sending large quantities of cocaine from Mexico to the United States."
A former lieutenant, Robert Pinto, 32, who escaped jail in 2013 & was a leader of trafficking groups in Anzoategui & Sucre states, was moreover arrested during the same operation, the ministry & state media said.
(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Ken Wills)
VenezuelaSinaloa cartelUnited States