Handout picture taken on January 29, 2019 and released by the Venezuelan Presidency on January 30 shows Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaking at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said he was prepared to hold negotiations with the US-backed opposition and added he would support early parliamentary elections, RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday. (Photo by Francisco BATISTA / Venezuelan Presidency / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO – Venezuelan Presidency / Francisco BATISTA” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Agence France-Presse

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro slammed President Trump as a “racist cowboy” as he defied a $15 million bounty by the US to face drug-trafficking charges.

Maduro — who warned that he was ready to fight should the US and neighboring Colombia decide to invade — made the remarks Thursday after the US indicted the socialist leader and several other top Venezuelans on charges of “narco-terrorism.”

The State Department offered the reward for information leading to the arrest of Maduro, whose nation has been wracked by years of a profound economic crisis and political upheaval.

The indictment marks a serious new phase against Maduro at a time when some American officials have privately said Trump is increasingly frustrated with the results of his Venezuela policy, according to Reuters.

In announcing the charges, Attorney General William Barr accused Maduro and the other officials of colluding with a dissident faction of the demobilized Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC, “to flood the United States with cocaine.”

“While the Venezuelan people suffer, this cabal lines their pockets with drug money and the proceeds of their corruption,” he said.

One indictment by New York prosecutors accused Maduro and socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello, head of the rubber-stamp constitutional assembly, of conspiring with Colombian rebels and members of the military “to flood the US with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America.”

But Trump administration officials are aware their prospects of getting Maduro or his associated in custody anytime soon are slim, a person familiar with the situation told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“You are a miserable human being, Donald Trump,” Maduro said in a nationwide TV address during which he denounced the charges of narco-terrorism conspiracy, corruption and drug trafficking as false and racist.

“You manage international relations like a New York mafia extortion artist you once were as a real estate boss,” he railed. “If one day the imperialists and Colombian oligarchy dare to touch even a single hair, they will face the Bolivarian fury of an entire nation that will wipe them all out.”

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the charges were aimed at benefiting the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.

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