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26 Mar, 2020 19:20

Hard pass on the Noriega remix? US narcotrafficking charges against Maduro straight out of Panama playbook

Hard pass on the Noriega remix? US narcotrafficking charges against Maduro straight out of Panama playbook

The US indictment of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his subordinates on narcotrafficking charges echoes the rationale used to invade Panama and kidnap its leader – and Americans aren’t exactly thrilled with the reprise.

The Justice Department’s indictment of Maduro and four other senior Venezuelan officials on narcotrafficking charges – and the State Department’s offer of up to $15 million as a reward for evidence supporting those charges – reminded so many social media users of the 30-year-old plot to remove then-Panamanian president Manuel Noriega from office that the former CIA asset’s name was trending on Twitter on Thursday.

From the charges – conspiring with Colombian guerrillas to “flood the US with cocaine” – to the point man on both initiatives – current special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams (branded a “war criminal” by critics) – the two cases are nearly twins. In addition to drug-running, Noriega also helped the US by supporting the Contras in Nicaragua, history that has suddenly become relevant again after the Trump administration quietly sanctioned Nicaragua’s government earlier this month.

Few who understood the history were thrilled with the idea of pulling a Noriega on Maduro, however. CIA-supported Noriega had actually trafficked cocaine for years before he was charged, and many believed the invasion of Panama had been orchestrated to prevent him from opening his mouth about his relationship with the agency.

However, the Justice Department has not produced any evidence that Maduro is guilty – and the massive State Department rewards for evidence suggest that Washington is in dire need of proof in the Venezuelan case – making the “Noriega option” for Venezuela even less morally defensible than the invasion of Panama.

Others were more disgusted with the timing of the indictments. “They can’t stop coup-ing even during an outbreak!” one shocked user tweeted.

But some seemed to think invading Panama to snatch up Noriega had been a splendid little war, and pushed for the same in Venezuela.

Attorney General William Barr actually affirmed the Noriega comparison as he attempted to dispel the idea that the US had crossed some rubicon by criminally charging a foreign head of state. “We do not recognize Maduro as the president of Venezuela,” he reminded reporters after announcing the indictments.

Hinting darkly at Washington’s vision for Venezuela’s future, Barr added: “Obviously we indicted Noriega under similar circumstances, we did not recognize Noriega as the president of Panama.

Also on rt.com US State Dept offers $15 MILLION REWARD for help arresting Venezuela's Maduro after indictments

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