John Kerry, Secretary of State under President Barack Obama and current U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate outraged Latinos on Tuesday with his chummy behavior toward controversial Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros, who the State Department has accused of conspiring to traffic cocaine into the U.S.
Kerry met the Venezuelan dictator at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, which he is attending as the U.S. Special President Envoy for Climate.
Joshua Goodman, Latin America correspondent for AP, posted a vide of the two smiling as they shook hands and exchange pleasantries. At one point, Kerry laughs at a joke from Maduro and gives him the shame-shame finger gesture.
“Any lip readers? Maybe recalling their days bonding over baseball at a Cape Cod retreat of the Boston Group,” Goodman said, referring to a 2002 initiative that brough together American Democrats and Republicans with Venezuelan communists, socialists and capitalists.
“Nicholas Maduro was a lawmaker and John Kerry still a senator. Those meetings helped ease tensions following 2002 coup,” he continued, referring to the failed coup against then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chavéz.
The Boston Group fell apart in 2005 when five Venezuelan opposition parties boycotted parliamentary elections, effectively handing over every seat in the National Assembly.
The video of the friendly exchange angered some observers because of his human rights record and the fact that, since Kerry was Secretary of State, the State Department is seeking the Venezuelan leader’s arrest.
In March 2020, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr announced criminal charges against Maduro and his top lieutenants for a “narco-terrorism partnership” with the FARC over the past two decades with expressed intent to “flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing” of the country.
“The Venezuelan regime, once led by Nicolás Maduro Moros, remains plagued by criminality and corruption,” said Barr in a statement. “For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.”
He continued, “Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government. The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.”
“Maduro amounts to a nuclear bomb in the Amazon,” said one Twitter user. “Why would Kerry legitimize a narco criminal heavily engaged in illegal mineral extraction? What a faux pas. Epic display of bad judgement.”