U.S. to file criminal charges against Venezuelan president

Attorney General William Barr will announce on Thursday the filing of criminal charges against senior officials of the government of Venezuela, including President Nicolás Maduro, accusing them of involvement in the country's illegal drug trafficking, according to senior administration officials.

The U.S. and Maduro have long been at odds over the country's extensive corruption. The Trump administration backed a leader of the opposition, Juan Guaidó, instead of Maduro.

Tensions between the two countries began to deteriorate after Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor, became president in 1999. He villainized the U.S. and other countries he accused of taking advantage of Venezuela.

Last month, the International Narcotics Control Board said a criminal structure, including parts of the Venezuela government and military, was heavily involved in drug trafficking.

"There are indications that in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, criminal groups have succeeded in infiltrating government security forces, forming an informal network known as the 'Cartel of the Suns' to facilitate the passage of illicit drugs into and out the country," the board said.

Barr is expected to announce the charges and further U.S. diplomatic sanctions on Venezuela at a mid-morning news conference.