Venezuela’s ‘No. 2’ Accuses Wall St. Journal of Libel

     MANHATTAN (CN) — High-ranking Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello sued News Corporation and Dow Jones for libel on Thursday, claiming the Wall Street Journal defamed him in a story about cocaine trafficking.
     Cabello’s lawsuit alleges that the Wall Street Journal published false and defamatory statements about the politician in May 18, 2015, article entitled, “Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub,” which included the subtitle, “U.S. probe targets No. 2 official Diosdado Cabello, several others, on suspicion of drug trafficking and money laundering.”
     The article by Jose De Cordoba and Juan Forero referred to Cabello, a key member of the Venezuelan National Assembly, several times as the “main target” and “biggest target” of an investigation by “an elite unit of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington” and federal prosecutors in Miami and New York. The article attributes many of its statements to unnamed officials.
     The story alleges that high-ranking Venezuelan officials are the “de facto leaders of drug-trafficking organizations” that act has transportation hub for cocaine produced in neighboring Colombia into the United States and Europe. The article cites unnamed official who claims Cabello was “one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel.”
     Cabello’s libel suit alleges that Wall Street Journal article damaged his reputation and “spawned a tsunami of republications by various U.S. and international news outlets.”
     The Wall Street Journal article mentions that Venezuelan authorities have rejected previous allegations of officials’ involvement in the drug trade as American attempts to destabilize Venezuela’s ruling socialist party in the oil-rich country.
     A spokesperson for Dow Jones and its flagship publication, the Wall Street Journal, said they “are in the process of reviewing the suit but we have full confidence in the rigor and accuracy of our reporting [and] will vigorously defend the Wall Street Journal against this lawsuit.”
     Cabello is the vice president of Venezuela’s current governing party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and is often referred to as the country’s “number two,” according to his lawsuit.
     “As Venezuela’s vice president during a failed coup d’état in 2002, Mr. Cabello served as interim president, temporarily assuming the presidency of the country,” Thursday’s complaint states.
     Cabello seeks punitive damages for defamation. He is represented by Gary Redish of Winne Banta Basralian & Kahn PC in Hackensack, N.J., and by Elio Perez in Miami.
     Relatives of Venezuelan socialist President Nicolas Maduro — “number one” to Cabello’s “number two” — were indicted in New York in November 2015 after reportedly being busted with 800 kilograms of cocaine in a DEA sting. Maduro quickly condemned what he called “imperialist ambushes” of his socialist party.

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