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Venezuela first nephew told informant ‘we’re at war’ with America, transcript says

In this courtroom sketch, Efrain Campo, second from left, 29, and Francisco Flores, right, 30, are shown at their arraignment last year in a Manhattan federal court
In this courtroom sketch, Efrain Campo, second from left, 29, and Francisco Flores, right, 30, are shown at their arraignment last year in a Manhattan federal court AP

One of the nephews of the Venezuelan first family pressed for a quick cocaine deal because his “mother” needed campaign cash, according to a newly released transcript of a conversation he had with a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant.

Efrain Campo, 29, also was recorded saying “we’re at war” with the Americans and laughing about sending opposition leaders to jail, according to the transcript, which was filed in federal district court in New York.

At the time of the conversation, Campo’s aunt, Cilia Flores, who is married to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, was running for a seat in the National Assembly. Campo referred to her as his mother.

“We need the money,” Campo said, according to the transcript. “Why? Because the Americans are hitting us hard with money. Do you understand? The opposition . . . is getting an infusion of a lot of money.”

We put them in jail over here. We send them to jail for 15 years.

Transcript of Efrain Campo’s alleged conversation with DEA informant

The transcript of the October conversation is the first evidence released in the federal drug-smuggling conspiracy case to establish a direct connection between Campo, his cousin and fellow defendant, Francisco Flores, 30, and Venezuela’s first couple.

Campo and Francisco Flores face charges that they conspired to smuggle 800 kilos of cocaine in the United States. The case, which has added to tension in the already troubled U.S.-Venezuela relationship, is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 7.

At the time that Campo spoke to the DEA informant, the Maduro administration was desperately trying to hold onto control of the National Assembly. In a dramatic election less than two months later, the Venezuela opposition won control of the body amid expectations that the opposition would overturn decisions made by the Maduro government. Maduro has since blocked the assembly’s ability to enact any laws.

Campo’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.

According to the transcript, Campo’s statements to the confidential source indicate, at least in his mind, that the Maduro administration was prepared to go to any lengths to maintain its power – including sending opponents to jail.

“We put them in jail over here,” Campo said. “We send them to jail for 15 years.”

Campo didn’t say whom he was referring to, but one opposition figure, Leopoldo López, a Harvard-educated former mayor of a wealthy section of Caracas, was arrested and sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison months before the election on charges of inciting violence at anti-government protests that resulted in the deaths of 40 people.

The close relationship between the defendant and the first family has been one of the most dramatic parts of the complex drug case. Cilia Flores, a lawyer and leader in the National Assembly, accused U.S. agents of kidnapping her nephews.

The Americans are hitting us hard with money. Do you understand?

Transcript of Efrain Campo’s alleged conversation with DEA informant

The defense has sought to paint Campo and his cousin as victims of a U.S. political plot against the Venezuelan government and has asserted that they didn’t have the knowledge or capability to pull off such a complicated transaction.

In an alleged confession given to DEA agents after his arrest, Campo tried to walk back what he had told the informant about funding Flores’ campaign for the National Assembly.

“I know I said that, but in reality it was for me,” Campo said, according to the statement.

According to previously released court documents, Campo said he and his cousin planned to get the cocaine from Colombian rebels. Asked why he got involved in the deal, Flores allegedly said: “To make money.” Flores said the deal was worth $5 million, of which he’d expected to receive $560,000, according to prosecutors.

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