U.S. sanctions Venezuela vice-president over trafficking claims

Vice President Tareck El Aissami has been put on a sanctions list by the U.S. Treasury Department for allegedly aiding drug traffickers and Middle Eastern terrorists.

In his previous roles as governor of Venezuela's Aragua state and Minister of Interior and Justice, El Aissami coordinated shipments of thousands of kilograms of narcotics to the United States and Mexico.

The sanctions against the second-highest government official in Venezuela, who is in line to succeed Socialist President Nicolás Maduro, nearly certainly will lead to an erosion in the already strained relations between the two governments.

Thirty-four Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to President Donald Trump on February 8 asking his administration to take administration action to sanction Venezuelan officials.

Mr Aissami was appointed last month by President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela and the USA have knocked heads since 1998 when the late President Hugo Chavez took an anti-imperialist path and began to distant the country from US control. He is also in charge of a special task force to root out potential coup plots against Maduro, so he's trusted by Maduro above few others.

The action is likely to heighten tensions between Venezuela's increasingly authoritarian government and the administration of President Donald Trump, who had promised to defend Venezuelans against "oppression" during his presidential campaign.

The sanctions come on the heels of a letter by a bipartisan group of 34 USA lawmakers urging President Donald Trump to apply new sanctions against Venezuela's government on February 8, alleging that it supports corruption, human rights abuses, and "terrorism".

"This case highlights our continued focus on narcotics traffickers and those who help launder their illicit proceeds through the United States", Smith said. The U.S. move freezes his assets in the U.S. and bars him from entering the U.S. Many people have fled to neighboring countries to get medical care.

  • Leroy Wright