The United States has charged Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro and other senior officials in the country with drug trafficking crimes.
The move, which will increase tensions between the two nations, was announced by Attorney General William Barr. The US also offered a $15m (£12.5m) reward for any information leading to Mr Maduro’s arrest.
It has long accused him of leading a corrupt and brutal regime, a charge he has repeatedly rejected. Washington backs opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who last year declared himself interim president.
As well as Maduro, the US indictment also charged four other senior Venezuelan officials including the country’s chief justice.
“The Venezuelan people deserve a transparent, responsible, representative government that serves the needs of the people and that does not…. engage in illicit narcotics trafficking,” the US State Department said in a statement.
“These individuals violated the public trust by facilitating shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, including control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base,” it added.