potinsnews.com March 25, 2017

USA government sanctions Venezuelan vice president for drug trafficking

15 February 2017, 12:41 | Noel Cummings

Treasury sanctions Venezuelan vice president for drug trafficking

Tareck El Aissami will have sanctions imposed on him by the US which accuses him of playing a major role in international drug trafficking

It said El Aissami protected and oversaw large shipments of drugs from Venezuela to Mexico and the United States while serving as the country's interior minister and governor of Aragua state.

El Aissami, for his part, has long faced allegations from U.S. politicians and worldwide media outlets of links to drug traffickers and Islamic militant groups such as Hezbollah.

El Aissami, 42, has been under investigation by US prosecutors for allegedly aiding drug shipments from Venezuela, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015.

In a January 31 decree, Maduro granted El Aissami expansive new powers to seize property and approve ministers' budgets. 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".

The move freezes any of El Aissami's assets in the U.S. It was announced by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Including a member of the Venezuelan government on the list of Treasury sanctions does not mean that the Venezuelan government is also being sanctioned, said the Treasury.

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Senior administration officials declined to say whether Trump had personally signed off on the sanctions or whether he was involved in the decision. Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan President, has previously called Donald Trump a "bandit" and "mental patient".

The action is "not a political one, not an economic one, not a diplomatic one", said another high-ranking US official who briefed reporters.

U.S. government sources have assured the media that this is not a political or diplomatic punishment for Venezuela, but rather that the Vice-President is being sanctioned because there is evidence, from years of investigations, which prove his ties to drug trafficking.

The question is whether President Nicolás Maduro - and Venezuela's fractured political opposition - are ready for that.

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 Treasury Department said that it is set its sights on an worldwide drug network spanning the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Britain, the United States and Venezuela.

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