Trump sanctions Venezuelan vice president for drug trafficking

The US Finance Ministry also noted that El Aissami was a close associate of drug lords from Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico who had already been under US sanctions.

The move “is 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, ” said John E. Smith, acting director of the Treasurys Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The wire service, citing a former government official, reports that the sanctions on El Aissami were "months in the making" but were held up under the Obama administration by concerns it would interfere with diplomacy - specifically, with talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, and with efforts to win the release of a US citizen.

With a reputation for being a radical among Chavista leaders, 42 year old El Aissami is the former Ministry of Interior and former governor of the Aragua region. That, they said, "is extremely troubling given his alleged ties to drug trafficking and terrorist organizations".

-The US government labeled Venezuelan vice president Tareck El Aissami a drug "kingpin" on Monday, a designation that he denounced as a "vile" attack.

Monday's action imposed sanctions on El Aissami that prohibit anyone in the USA from doing business with him, and freezing any assets the US.

The action is "not a political one, not an economic one, not a diplomatic one", said another high-ranking US official who briefed reporters. He was named vice president by Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro in January. Today, he has become the highest-ranking official in Venezuela to be sanctioned by the United States. Other senior administration official said Monday's action had nothing to do with politics or actions taken by Venezuela's government on whole.

He made a name for himself in Venezuela by cracking down on drug gangs.

Five U.S. companies, as well as a Gulfstream 200 jet registered in the United States, linked to Lopez Bello also are blocked as part of the government action.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran a widely circulated story accusing then Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello of heading a drug cartel, citing anonymous US Justice Department officials.


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