Venezuela detains ruling party mayor over drug trafficking

·2 min read

By Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities have detained a mayor belonging to the ruling Socialist party and two elected deputies as part of an operation against drug trafficking, the government said, without saying if any drugs were seized.

The interior ministry and anti-drugs authority apprehended Keyrineth Fernandez, a ruling PSUV party mayor for a municipality in Venezuela's Zulia state along Venezuela's border with Colombia. Fernandez was elected mayor during local and regional elections last November.

One of the deputies belongs to PSUV and the other belongs to the Primero Venezuela party. Authorities captured three other people in the operation including a Colombian national, the interior ministry and anti-drug agency said in a statement late on Friday

"Investigations are continuing and new arrests have not been ruled out," the statement said.

Socialist party vice president Diosdado Cabello said those within the ranks of the PSUV who commit crimes will be brought to justice.

"In the PSUV there is no compromising with criminals," Cabello said in a Twitter post.

Venezuela, enmeshed in a long-running political and economic crisis, has turned into a launch pad for trafficking drugs toward Europe, Africa and the United States, according to security analysts. The U.S. government has accused Venezuela's government of not doing enough to counter drug trafficking.

For its part, Venezuela's government has said detentions of drug traffickers in the country and seizures of narcotics have multiplied since it expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2005.

In another incident, Carlos Vidal, a ruling-party mayor for a municipality in Venezuela's Anzoategui state, was detained for smuggling gasoline and selling it illegally, Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami said. Fuel smuggling persists in some areas of the country, which the government has vowed to fight.

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Diane Craft and Will Dunham)