On Monday, U.S. authorities said the Venezuela Vice President is an international drug trafficker. At the same time, the U.S. placed a number of sanctions against him.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control or OFAC of the U.S. Department of Treasury said that Tareck El Aissami has had a significant role in narcotics trafficking, said the agency’s news release.
The action by the OFAC culminated an investigation of a number of years that targeted narcotics traffickers within Venezuela and demonstrated that influence and power cannot protect those engaging in illicit activities, said the OFAC acting director John Smith.
El Aissami was appointed to vice president of the South American country in January. He is a former justice and interior minister and was once the governor of the state of Aragua.
Treasury officials said the Venezuelan vice president facilitated the shipments of narcotics leaving Venezuela including controlling the aircraft that left from an air base in Venezuela and shipments of narcotics of more than 1,000 kilos on multiple occasions.
Those shipments include ones that had final destinations in the U.S. and Mexico, said Treasury officials.
In addition, the Treasury Department said that El Aissami was linked to the coordination of shipments of drugs to Los Zetas, a violent drug cartel based in Mexico, and also provided protection to a drug lord in Colombia.
The actions taken Monday impose sanctions on the vice president of Venezuela that prohibit anyone in the U.S. from conducting business with him as well as freezing all his assets in the United States.
An intelligence document obtained by a news media agency links the Venezuelan vice president to over 170 passports and other IDs from the South American nation that the news agency said had been issued to people from the Middle East that included some connected to Hezbollah the militant terrorist group based in Lebanon.
It is alleged that the official who gave the order to issue those documents was El Aissami who looked after the granting of visas and the nationalizing of citizens from other countries including Syrians, Jordanians, Iranians, Iraqis and Lebanese.
There has been no official comment by the Venezuela government or by El Aissami about the actions taken by the U.S. Department of Treasury on Monday.
The President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro has held a long running feud with the U.S. government since becoming president following the death of longtime leader Hugo Chavez in 2013.
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