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National Constituent Assembly member Diosdado Cabello attends Tarek William Saab's (not pictured) appointment ceremony as new chief prosecutor in Caracas, Venezuela, August 5, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino


By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the former head of Venezuela's National Assembly accusing The Wall Street Journal of libelling him in an article that identified him as the target of a U.S. drug trafficking investigation.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan ruled on Wednesday that Diosdado Cabello had failed to explain exactly how the article was false.

Gary Redish, a lawyer for Cabello, said he was reviewing the decision with his client. Cabello has repeatedly denied any involvement in Venezuela's drug trade in public statements.

Cabello filed the lawsuit in May 2016 against News Corp subsidiary Dow Jones & Co, the newspaper's owner, claiming that a May 2015 article contained "false and defamatory allegations" that he was involved in criminal activities related to drug trafficking and money laundering.

The article, headlined "Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub," reported that Cabello was a leading target in U.S. investigations.

The lawsuit said the article caused "enormous damage to Mr. Cabello's reputation and good name, both personally and in his capacity as a key member of Venezuela's National Assembly."

Cabello, the No. 2 figure in Venezuela's ruling Socialist Party, is a member of the National Assembly, which he presided over from January 2012 to January 2016.

U.S. authorities have investigations open into possible involvement by Venezuelan officials in drug trafficking.

President Nicolas Maduro has frequently cast U.S. accusations of drug trafficking as a pretext for meddling in Venezuela and trying to topple him. The United States announced new sanctions against Maduro's government last month even as the oil-producing country has fallen into an economic and political crisis in which more than 120 people have died in four months of protests.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Grant McCool)

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