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Venezuela’s No. 2 denies any involvement in drug trafficking

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2013 file photo, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello applauds before addressing the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela. Cabello said on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 he is asking courts to bar news executives from leaving the country while he's suing them for alleged defamation. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The powerful leader of Venezuela’s congress on Tuesday fiercely denied allegations he might be involved in the drug trade.

National Assembly chief Diosdado Cabello said he would never do anything that could hurt the South American nation’s young people.

His comments came after The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials are investigating Cabello and other members of the country’s socialist administration for trafficking cocaine and money laundering.

The Journal’s story built on reports from earlier this year that Cabello’s bodyguard had defected to the U.S. and was fingering his former boss as the head of a drug ring led by Venezuelan political and military officials.

Cabello is now suing several of the news outlets that published reports about the bodyguard’s claims and also has brought individual criminal charges against the heads of those organizations. Many Venezuelan outlets carried stories Tuesday on the Journal’s report, but they wrapped the findings in layers of sometimes tortured attribution in an apparent attempt to hold off further legal entanglements.

Cabello told the National Assembly that the allegations against him are part of a campaign against the Venezuelan homeland, and he challenged those who accuse him to present their proof.

“Those who today accuse me today of drug trafficking should present a single piece of evidence, just one,” he said to cheers of support from his colleagues.

He added that he would not stop fighting those who mistreated him in the press. “I’ll see you in court,” he said.

Earlier in the day, opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost the 2013 presidential election to President Nicolas Maduro, called for an official investigation into the reports that Venezuela has become a main corridor for drug trafficking.

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