El comandante de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana Nestor Reverol negó que tuviese algo que ver con el narcotráfico, después de los señalamientos que lo vinculaban con ese delito, de acuerdo con un reportaje difundido por el The New York Times.
“Cómo voy a ser un narcotraficante, si tengo 30 años luchando contra el narcotráfico y buscando capos. Yo le entregué 21 capos a las autoridades de Estados Unidos, entre ellos el ‘Loco’ Barrera (Daniel) y Diego (Pérez Henao) Rastrojo”, aclaró en una entrevista publicada por el mismo diario en diciembre.
“¿Dónde están las pruebas? Yo no he querido declarar, porque yo espero que se oficialice. Cuando se oficialice actúo legalmente”, expresó.
Lea la nota completa en inglés que publico The New York Times:
On social media, Néstor Reverol, the head of Venezuela’s National Guard, has bragged about seizing large shipments of cocaine in raids against drug cartels.
Mr. Reverol, a favorite of the country’s former president, Hugo Chávez, previously led the nation’s antidrug agency and a minister of the interior.
But American prosecutors say that he has also been on the payroll of narcotics traffickers, tipping them off to raids and even stalling investigations, a person familiar with the federal case against him said on Tuesday.
Charges against Mr. Reverol, along with Edilberto Molina, another former official in Venezuela’s antidrug unit, will soon be unsealed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, according to the person familiar with the case.
The indictment will mark the latest in a series of charges by United States prosecutors against powerful Venezuelans who the prosecutors say have assumed a large role in the narcotics trade.
Investigators say that the corruption extends to the top levels of the government and that the line between officialdom and the underworld has blurred.
Earlier this year officials said they were investigating Diosdado Cabello, the head of the National Assembly, considered the second most powerful person in the country. That inquiry involved accusations that Mr. Cabello had been involved with drug shipments to the United States.
Mr. Cabello has strongly denied any wrongdoing and any link to traffickers.
And in November, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged two nephews of Cilia Flores, the wife of President Nicolás Maduro, with conspiring to transport 800 kilograms of cocaine to the United States.
They were arrested in Haiti.
According to the person familiar with the case, who asked not to be identified given the sensitivity of the legal proceedings, Mr. Reverol received payments from criminal organizations, regularly alerting traffickers about when and where raids were to take place.
Mr. Reverol personally “stopped or hindered investigations” of drug traffickers, using his powerful posts to allow them to operate in Venezuela with impunity, the person said.
American investigators have long accused the government in Caracas of corruption and of being involved in drug trafficking. Mr. Maduro has strongly denied the accusations that government officials are involved in the drug trade and has said the allegations are part of an American plot to undermine his government.
Mr. Reverol and Mr. Molina could not immediately be reached for comment. An official at Venezuela’s Information Ministry said that he did not have information about the charges against Mr. Reverol and Mr. Molina.
Mr. Reverol was the head of the National Antidrug Office, a rough equivalent of the American Drug Enforcement Administration, for many years. He was named interior minister by Mr. Chávez in October 2012 and was replaced the following year after Mr. Chávez died and was succeeded by Mr. Maduro.
Mr. Reverol was made commander of the National Guard in October of last year.
A Twitter account in his name has boasted in recent months of raids by the National Guard against drug traffickers. A post from Dec. 10 showed a photo of national guardsmen using a crane to uncover a hidden shipment of cocaine in the flatbed of a tractor-trailer.
“Detected by our canine unit,” the post says.
The National Guard is responsible for protecting the country’s borders, though its members, according to people who live along the border, are widely believed to be involved in all sorts of contraband, especially across the long border with Colombia. The contraband could include the illegal export of cheap Venezuelan gasoline, government-subsidized foods like milk powder and corn flour, and drugs.
American officials say that a large portion of the cocaine that leaves Colombia passes through Venezuela. Many drug shipments leave by plane from hidden airstrips in Venezuela and arrive in the United States via Central America and the Caribbean.
The federal case could be another embarrassment to Venezuela’s leftists who have vowed to carry on the legacy of Mr. Chávez, who died in 2013. Members of his United Socialist Party were crushed in legislative elections on Dec. 6, which handed the opposition a two-thirds supermajority.
Venezuela’s economy, which is expected to contract by 10 percent this year, was the prime cause for the upset. But the opposition also accused the government of endemic corruption after 17 years in power.
In September, federal prosecutors in Miami unsealed separate indictments against Pedro Luís Martín, a former official with the country’s intelligence police, and Jesus Alfredo Itriago, a former anti-narcotics investigator.
The indictments said the men were involved in shipments of cocaine to the United States. The men remain at large.
And in July of last year, officials in Aruba arrested a former Venezuelan intelligence chief, Hugo Carvajal, at the request of the American authorities. Federal prosecutors in the United States said that Mr. Carvajal had taken payments from Colombian drug traffickers and had invested in and coordinated drug shipments.
The Aruban authorities ultimately returned Mr. Carvajal to Venezuela rather than sending him to face charges in the United States, in a setback for American law enforcement officials.
Mr. Maduro of Venezuela denied that Mr. Carvajal was involved in trafficking.