A Cuban-born anti-communist activist is pleased that the Trump administration is indicting Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro for effectively converting the South American country into a criminal enterprise at the service of drug traffickers and terrorist groups.
From prosecutors in Miami and New York, Attorney General William Barr announced the indictments on money laundering and drug trafficking charges. There will also be $25 million in rewards available for information leading to the arrest or prosecution of Maduro and Diosado Cabello, head of the ruling Socialist Party.
The indictment of a functioning head of state is highly unusual.
"We're indicting Maduro, but, in fact, we don't officially recognize Maduro as Venezuela's president; they recognize [Juan] Guaidó," explains Humberto Fontova, who fled Cuba in 1961 and has written two books on the regime. "So we're not technically indicting a head of state. I guess that's probably what made it possible, because I don't know if you can indict a foreign head of state."
Fontova hopes the $25 million will help compel members of Venezuela's military to switch their allegiance to Juan Guaidó.
"The people that we were trying to get on Guaidó's side during that failed coup attempt -- that was kind of embarrassing a few months ago; just not enough of the military guys flipped," the author explains. "They were still too scared. They were still making too much money and they didn't see that Cabello and Maduro were in any real danger. Well, I think now that they realize that they are really in danger."
The coronavirus threatens to collapse Venezuela's health system and oil-dependent economy, which has been driven deep into the ground by years of corruption and U.S. sanctions.