Two nephews of Venezuela's first lady have been arrested and brought to the United States to face drug trafficking charges, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, and Efrain Antonio Campo-Flores, 29, were flown to New York on Tuesday, a source said. Both are nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, according to two sources linked to the Flores family.
The two were arrested in Haiti at a hotel in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday by anti-narcotics policeafter contacting an undercover U.S. agent about selling 800 kg (1,763 lb) of cocaine through Honduras, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
Flores, 62, whom the president refers to as the "First Combatant," is highly influential under the government of her husband. She worked on the legal team of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, working to secure his 1994 release from prison after a failed coup attempt.
In 2006, she became the first woman elected to lead the legislature, taking over that role from Maduro, and is registered as a candidate in the Dec. 6 legislative elections.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday condemned the arrests, calling them imperialist attacks, and tweeting,"Neither attacks nor imperalist ambushes can harm the people of the liberators" – believed to be his first public reference to his relatives' detention.
The U.S. State Department says that more than half of the cocaine produced in neighboring Colombia is trafficked through Venezuela toward markets in Europe and the United States.Maduro denies those charges, calling them a smear campaign against the Socialist Party.