Venezuelan Vice President Calls US Sanctions 'Vile Aggression'

US sanctions Venezuelan vice president on drug trafficking
US sanctions Venezuela's vice president as "drug trafficker"

15 February, 2017

According to the Treasury Department, El Aissami "supervised or had partial ownership" of drug shipments from Venezuela of more than one ton on multiple occasions, including shipments headed for Mexico and the U.S.

Companies in the USA will be unable to do business with Aissami under the new sanctions, according to a release from the Treasury Department, and his frontman Samark Lopez Bello.

The Treasury Department is also designating a second man - Samark Lopez - as a narcotics trafficker.

John E Smith, acting director of the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said the sanctions were "the culmination of a multi-year investigation under the Kingpin Act to target significant narcotics traffickers in Venezuela and demonstrates that power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities".

On Twitter, El Aissami said the sanctions were a badge of honor.

He's been accused of playing a major role in worldwide drug trafficking.

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A senior administration official later told said the designation is not a reaction to El Aissami's role as executive vice president of Venezuela. "The truth is invincible and we will see how this infamous aggression will fade", El Aissami tweeted Tuesday.

Investigators are not commenting on whether other high-ranking Venezuelan government officials are involved, and deferred to the Justice Department questions about whether the sanctioned vice president faces arrest or imminent indictment.

Officials said they had frozen assets worth tens of millions of dollars, including a private jet and what appeared to be several luxury condos in Miami controlled by Lopez Bello.

The sanctions were not a reaction, the official said, to the appointment in January of El Aissami to the Venezuelan vice presidency. "It essentially increases El Aissami's exit costs and gives him a personal stake in the continuation of "Chavismo", Professor Smilde told Reuters.

The action is "not a political one, not an economic one, not a diplomatic one", said another high-ranking US official who briefed reporters. It also says he was in the pay of convicted Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled for the protection of drug shipments.

He went on to study law and criminology and made a name for himself in Venezuela by cracking down on drug gangs.

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