Original art by @modográfico

Turns out, all Efraín Campo Flores really wanted was a big cat.

“I’d really love to get a leopard cub, that would be nice; I might be giving you a call sometime to see if you can get one for me?”

As he tapped the mad idea into his WhatsApp chat, the last thing he suspected was that the guy on the other end was a DEA undercover agent or that his drug lord fantasies would be submitted as evidence in the trial against him and his cousin.

That pipedream was one beat in the thumping 1,500 page narcosobrinos trial transcript I spent a few weeks reading. Today, Efraín and his cousin Franqui Francisco Flores (AKA the narcosobrinos) were sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment and to pay a $50,000 fine by a U.S. federal judge, after being found guilty of conspiring to transport cocaine to the United States.

The conviction came after a hearing where unintendedly hilarious letters were presented by the defense, arguing for their release and deportation to Venezuela, since the defendants helped their cousins do their homework, never did anything “bad” (besides dealing drugs) and his family “can’t afford tickets to visit them in NY” (another worthy cause for gofundme).

As most of the conversations examined during the trial were in Spanish, it was necessary for the prosecution to translate the exchanges. Communications were, of course, laden with expletives and regional jargon. As the defense sought to question the accuracy of the official translations, the prosecution interpreters testified and were cross-examined by the defense.

The last thing he suspected was that his drug lord fantasies would be submitted as evidence in the trial against him and his cousin.

One of the funniest bits is the exchange between one of the fancy lawyers and a Venezuelan interpreter, during which they discuss profusely about the different meanings of the word marico in Venezuela. The fancy lawyer argues that, in some cases, it can be a term of endearment among friends (and not a slur), while the interpreter says that, even when used among friends, it’s a slur.

It’s a funny thing about how the defense went about: it wasn’t the prosecution who shone the spotlight on Efraín’s zoological fantasies. It was the defense. It was his lawyer who, faced with a wall of evidence, settled on a “they’re-just-too-stupid-to-be-drug lords” defense, and ended up with a perverse incentive to comb through the evidence, looking for anything that might make his clients look like idiots.

We’ll never know much about the cub thing from the transcript, because the prosecution objected to this line of questioning and the judge sided with them: “We’re not talking about lions and tigers here.”

We’re left to wonder if Campo wanted to look as a Venezuelan Pablo Escobar, or if he really likes baby lions and tigers; we’re left to wonder why the first lady’s nephew is dumb enough to record evidence of his own crime on his own phone.

And, as a lawyer, I am left with grudging admiration for the best counsel Wilmer Ruperti could buy: bits of the transcript make this too-stupid defense sound oddly plausible.

Then again, parts of it don’t. Some of the material found on their phones is downright chilling, violent gangland stuff (texts about cutting people, pictures of dismembered bodies) that doesn’t jive with the ingenue defense. To be sure, the context to these messages isn’t clear and there is no specific evidence of their participation in murders in Venezuela. In asking for a harsh sentence, the DA did, however, show these texts as evidence that they were involved and had knowledge of drug hit jobs, talked about them nonchalantly and may have been planning a few of their own.

We’re left to wonder why the first lady’s nephew is dumb enough to record evidence of his own crime on his own phone.

So, that’s a bit less Benny Hill and a bit more Scarface.

And the too-dumb-to-know-better defense was a far cry from the strategy announced by Cilia Flores after their arrest: “The DEA committed a kidnapping, which the defense will prove.” Instead, their claim was entrapment; that is, the nephews committed the crime, but did so because they were tricked into it by the DEA. Normally, this requires evidence that the accused had no predisposition to commit a crime, but they were wheeled into it by exploitative police officers.

In any case, it fell flat. You might feel a certain sympathy for the inept wannabes who got caught because they are less cunning than, say, Hugo Carvajal, but truth is that they were criminals who operated with impunity in a country where top government officials and their entourages can moonlight as drug dealers facing no consequences.

It’s the full circle of corruption; the transcripts and text messages suggest that they had participated in small-time drug operations, handled illegal drugs, were involved in violent threats to other dealers  and had the connections to charter a private plane. They clearly agreed to sell a large amount of cocaine to be trafficked to the U.S. and got convicted because they confessed to it. The defense exaggerated the trapped-by-stupidity argument, but it’s pretty clear they were selected precisely because of their lack of power and influence within chavismo. Unlike the Kafkaeske show-trials political prisoners in Venezuela have to face, these two men were given all the guarantees established in the U.S. Constitution. At one point, one of the narcosobrinos even thanked the DEA for allowing him a phone call after being arrested, and commented that they wouldn’t have been treated the same way had that happened in Venezuela.

The real drug kingpins of chavismo would have never fallen for this one and, within chavismo, the narco-nephews were expendable. No tears for these pobrecitos.

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    • His best defense is to move to Massachusetts and win the Democrat nomination for US Senator. That will give him immunity. Ted’s relatives can tell him how it works.

  1. Hateful, but.



    As a Venezuelan interpreter myself, I found the bit about “marico” as a term of endearment, or, a slur particularly fascinating and hilarious.

  2. In a US prison they will have a better quality of life than 99% of the people in Venezuela.
    I hope that when this regime falls, they will be returned to Venezuela to rot in a hell hole prison for the rest of their lives.

    • Three hots and a cot. They will be guaranteed more daily calories than the average Venezuelan will see in 2018. Too bad they can’t share their prison meals with their families.

      Ironically, they may make more money as a prison inmate in the US than someone makes at minimum wage job at home when measured in US dollars.

      • Federal prison is way better than most state prisons, but there is still a fair amount of violence and sexual assault.

        In any event, better there than living in luxury somewhere with their stolen and ill gained riches.

  3. So stupid, in fact, that everything here points to a Clinton controlled, deep state, false flag operation. Right guys? Why spend a million plus of US taxpayer money to incarcerate a couple of party boys on a lark?

  4. Cilia in every public position shes had is notorious for having favoured her relatives and friends every way she could , giving them cushy or luchrative jobs, rich in opportunities for graft and other illicit forms of enrichment , in Pdvsa, in the offices of congress etc, her flagrant nepotism has already been amply reported by the local press . This is nothing new in Venezuela where traditionally cliques and ‘roscas’ rule every aspect of Venezuelan life , one might say that the strong presence of political clientelism and patronage in Venezuela stems from this old custom of privileging friends and relatives in an organic system of mutual favours and collaboration , going back many many decades , except that in more modern times kin and kith affiliations have been vastly extended by incorporating ideological and political affiliations that didnt exist before……!!

    These kids were stupid, really stupid and if they hadnt been Cilias ‘children’ which gave them automatic membership rights into one of the most corrupt systems of political rule in the world they would not have involved themselves in the criminal schemes that now have landed them in jail . Of course one of the mainstays of the corruption of this regime is drugtrafficking , so they saw a way of making lots of easy money by playing the drug trafficking game ……, specially as their family ties allowed them access to facilities and complicities which made their incursion into drug trafficking something totally viable….

    If these stupid kids where able to initiate plans to engage in drugtrafficking in a large scale you can imagine what sharp unscrupulous operators forming part of the upper echelons of the ruling cliques are capable of doing as international drug kingpins !!

    One can also imagine whether they would have been able to stage any kind of criminal project of the kind they dreamed about if they had been the ‘children’ of other maligned presidents of the past , like Betancourt , Leoni , Caldera or Luis Herrera………!! It was the conections they had as children of Cilia what gave them the opportunity to became the criminals they became!!


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