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U.S. considers Venezuela's incoming defense chief a drug 'kingpin'

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:13 PM EST, Sat January 7, 2012
 The United States added Gen. Henry Rangel Silva to its drug
The United States added Gen. Henry Rangel Silva to its drug "kingpin" list in 2008.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gen. Henry Rangel Silva will replace Carlos Mata Figueroa, AVN news agency said
  • The United States added Rangel to its drug "kingpin" list in 2008
  • The action froze Rangel's assets in the U.S. and forbade citizens to do business with him
  • President Hugo Chavez reportedly describes Rangel as a "good soldier"

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has tapped a leading general accused by the United States of being a drug "kingpin" to be the country's new defense minister.

Gen. Henry Rangel Silva will replace Carlos Mata Figueroa, according to the state-run AVN news agency. Chavez, who called Rangel a "good soldier," made the announcement Friday in the central city of Guanare, the agency reported.

The United States added Rangel to its kingpin list in 2008 for allegedly providing support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC.

A statement from the Treasury Department then said that the general "materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC," and pushed for more cooperation between the Venezuelan government and the leftist rebels.

Since 2003, the U.S. government has considered the FARC a "significant foreign narcotics trafficker."

The action froze whatever assets Rangel may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited citizens from doing business with him.

He is not the only Venezuelan official designated by the United States as a drug kingpin.

In September, the Treasury Department added lawmaker Freddy Bernal -- a Chavez loyalist -- and three other officials to the list.

All were accused of allegedly providing support to the FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s. While severely weakened in recent years, the guerrilla group continues to carry out kidnappings and attack security forces.

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