AP Sources: Alleged Maduro co-conspirator is in DEA custody

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This image provided by the U.S. Department of Justice shows a reward poster for Cliver Alcala-Cordones that was released on Thursday, March 26, 2020. The U.S. Justice Department has indicted Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolás Maduro and several key aides on charges of narcoterrorism. (Department of Justice via AP)

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MIAMI (AP) — A retired Venezuelan army general indicted alongside Nicolás 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 Alcalá 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 Alcalá’s arrest.

Alcalá 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.

Alcalá 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, Alcalá 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 Guaidó and his “American advisers” to purchase the weapons.

“We had everything ready,”” Alcalá 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 Alcalá to assassinate him and other political leaders.

According to the indictment, Alcalá in 2008, when he was a trusted aide to then President Hugo Chávez, 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, Alcalá published a video on social media bidding farewell to his family.

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

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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