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Maduro Co-Conspirator in DEA Custody   03/28 08:42

   MIAMI (AP) -- A retired Venezuelan army general indicted alongside Nicols 
Maduro has surrendered in Colombia and is being taken by Drug Enforcement 
Administration agents to New York for arraignment, four people familiar with 
the situation said Friday.

   Cliver Alcal has been an outspoken critic of Maduro for years. But he was 
charged Thursday with allegedly running with Maduro, socialist party boss 
Diosdado Cabello and another retired army general a narcoterrorist conspiracy 
that U.S. prosecutors say sent 250 metric tons of cocaine a year to the U.S. 
and turned the Venezuelan state into a platform for violent cartels and 
Colombia rebels. The Justice Department had offered a $10 million reward for 
Alcal's arrest.

   Alcal was being flown on a chartered plane to the U.S. from Barranquilla, 
Colombia, after waiving an extradition hearing and agreeing to collaborate with 
prosecutors, said the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to 
discuss actions that had not yet been made public. 

   Alcal has been living in the coastal city since fleeing Venezuela in 2018 
after the discovery of a conspiracy that he was secretly leading in hopes of 
ousting Maduro. 

   After being indicted Thursday, Alcal shocked many by claiming 
responsibility for a stockpile of U.S.-made assault weapons and military 
equipment seized on a highway in Colombia for what he said was a planned 
incursion into Venezuela to remove Maduro. Without offering evidence, he said 
he had a contract with opposition leader Juan Guaid and his "American 
advisers" to purchase the weapons.

   "We had everything ready,"" Alcal said in a video published on social 
media. "But circumstances that have plagued us throughout this fight against 
the regime generated leaks from the very heart of the opposition, the part that 
wants to coexist with Maduro." 

   The confusing remarks from someone who was among Maduro's loudest critics 
were seized on by Venezuela's socialist leader, who accused the DEA of being 
behind a plan by Alcal to assassinate him and other political leaders.

   According to the indictment, Alcal in 2008, when he was a trusted aide to 
then President Hugo Chvez, was given additional duties to coordinate drug 
shipments with corrupt elements of the Venezuelan military and guerrillas from 
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which the U.S. listed as a 
terrorist group.

   The DEA referred requests for comment to the Justice Department. Nicole 
Navas, a Justice Department spokesperson, declined to comment.

   Moments before his surrender, Alcal published a video on social media 
bidding farewell to his family.

   "I face the responsibilities for my actions with the truth," he said.


(KR)

 
 
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