The Department of Treasury sanctioned Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami Monday for alleged drug trafficking.
“[The Office of Foreign Assets Control’s] action today 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,” John E. Smith, Acting Director of OFAC, said in a statement.
The Department of Treasury alleged that El Aissasmi, a longtime government official, has abused his power over the years to sell drugs and protect other drug kingpins. “He facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, as well as control of drug routes through the ports in Venezuela. In his previous positions, he oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States,” the treasury department said.
Samark Jose Lopez Bello, El Aissami’s alleged frontman, was also targeted by sanctions. Bello allegedly used 13 companies spanning several nations to launder money. The sanctions prohibit American businesses and individuals from engaging in transactions with these companies, Bello and El Aissasmi.
El Aissasmi said Tuesday that the drug charges are an “imperialist aggression,” and said that “truth is invincible and we will see this vile aggression dispelled.” Bello also denied the allegations and called himself a “legitimate businessman.”
President Trump spoke with the presidents of Colombia and Peru Monday and the readouts of the call say that Trump is “concerned” about the situation in Venezuela. The leftist nation is currently facing a shortage of food and supplies and its leaders are cracking down on dissenters. Over 30 congressmen recently urged President Trump to “take immediate action to sanction regime officials.”