Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday railed against a US court ruling that convicted two of his nephews for drug trafficking, calling it an “imperialist attack.”
The socialist leader also defended First Lady Cilia Flores as a “revolutionary” in his first public reaction to the guilty verdict handed down by a New York jury a week ago against two of her brothers’ sons.
The pair — Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, 30, and Francisco Flores de Freitas, 31 — were convicted of plotting to smuggle 800 kilograms (1,760 pounds) of cocaine into the United States.
But the Venezuelan government, which has testy relations with the United States, says they were framed.
“Do you think this was a coincidence?” Maduro asked supporters at a rally in Caracas.
“Do you think it was a coincidence that the imperialists fabricated a case whose sole objective was to attack the first lady, the first combatant, the president’s wife?”
His remarks drew cheers from the crowd, which included Flores, a former attorney-general and speaker of the National Assembly.
Maduro is fending off opposition attempts to force him from power over an economic crisis that has triggered food shortages, looting and riots.
The leftist leader — the political heir to the late Hugo Chavez — calls the crisis a capitalist conspiracy backed by the United States.
His nephews were arrested in Haiti in November and flown to New York by US Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Their lawyers argued the pair were not crafty enough to carry out the scheme and merely fell into a trap set by the DEA, in a covert operation in which $20 million (Dh73.4 million) was offered for the drugs.
Prosecutors argued the men believed they were above the law as Maduro’s relatives.
Sentencing is set for March 7. The pair face 10 years to life in prison.