By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A retired Venezuelan general facing U.S. drug charges on Tuesday said his involvement in a plot to oust President Nicolas Maduro showed he was innocent, and urged U.S. prosecutors to disclose information linking him to the planned rebellion.
U.S. prosecutors say Cliver Alcala and other senior Venezuelan government officials conspired with the FARC Colombian rebel group to ship cocaine to the United States. Alcala pleaded not guilty after surrendering to U.S. agents in Colombia in 2020.
Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and a spokesperson for federal prosecutors in Manhattan declined to comment.
Alcala retired from the South American country’s military in 2013 and went on to become a vocal critic of Maduro, a socialist accused by Washington of corruption, human rights violations and election-rigging.
“Even if he was a member of the charged conspiracy, General Alcala Cordones withdrew as a result of his open opposition to the Maduro government, clearly communicating his break from membership in the conspiracy,” Alcala’s lawyers said in court papers made public on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
They added that Alcala repeatedly met with the CIA between 2017 and 2020 and “discussed the planned revolt with them.” His lawyers said evidence of his participation in that plot against Maduro, who was charged with drug offenses alongside Alcala, was “exculpatory.”
Maduro dismisses U.S. criticism of his government as a plot to oust him in a coup and take control of the OPEC nation’s vast oil reserves.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New YorkAdditional reporting by Vivian Sequera in CaracasEditing by Josie Kao)