U.S. seeks at least 30 years for nephews of Venezuela's first lady

Two nephews of Venezuela’s first lady should serve at least 30 years in prison for their convictions in the United States on drug trafficking charges, U.S. prosecutors said on Monday.

They said in a filing in federal court in Manhattan that the two men, Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, tried to make $20 million through drug trafficking so as to keep their family in power and to “enrich themselves while their countrymen starved in the streets.” 

The men are nephews of Cilia Flores, the wife of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Under Maduro, oil-producing Venezuela has fallen into an economic and political crisis in which more than 120 people have died in four months of protests. The United States announced new sanctions against Maduro’s government in July. 

The prosecutors also said Flores de Freitas and Campo Flores lied in an effort to suppress evidence in the case. The prosecutors said that federal guidelines called for sentences of life imprisonment, though they asked only for “substantial terms of not less than 30 years.”

Flores de Freitas and Campo Flores were convicted in November by a jury of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, after being arrested in Haiti in 2015 and flown to the United States following a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation.