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US: No Diplomatic Immunity for Venezuelans in Drug Case

Attorneys Rebekah J. Poston (C) and John J. Reilly (R) leave U.S. District Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, Nov. 12, 2015. Poston and Reilly are representing Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, 29, one of two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's relatives who have been indicted in the United States for cocaine smuggling.

Two relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who were arrested on charges of cocaine trafficking do not have diplomatic immunity from prosecution, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

The nephews of Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, were indicted in New York on Thursday on cocaine trafficking charges and are being held without bail.

Lawyers for the suspects, Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, 29, said they planned to plead not guilty at their Nov. 18 court appearance.

"We don't believe these individuals have diplomatic immunity," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a news briefing.

He did not elaborate except to say that the Venezuelan consul general had been in touch with U.S. law enforcement about the case.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela have long been fraught and the arrests were an embarrassment for Maduro, the 52-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez, before December parliamentary elections.

Toner denied the charges were politically motivated.

"This was strictly a law enforcement matter and had nothing to do with the politics of Venezuela," he said. "As we have said multiple times ... we don't want to interfere with the internal politics of Venezuela."