The United States has officially labelled Venezuela’s hardline Vice President Tareck El Aissami a major drug trafficker, naming the veteran politician to its narcotics “kingpin” sanctions list. The US Treasury accused Aissami of facilitating, protecting and overseeing large shipments of drugs from Venezuela to Mexico and the United States while serving as the country’s former interior minister and governor of Aragua state.
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Aissami — who became the South American country’s vice president on January 4 — was allegedly in the pay of Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled Garcia to protect shipments, and coordinated them with Mexico’s violent Los Zetas cartel, the Treasury yesterday said.
A key ally of Aissami, businessman Samark Jose Lopez Bello, was also officially designated a narcotics “kingpin”, and 13 of his companies spanning five countries were also listed for sanctions.
The Treasury’s action was “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 Smith, acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
“This case highlights our continued focus on narcotics traffickers and those who help launder their illicit proceeds through the United States.”
The sanctions freeze any assets on US territory of those listed, and also ban any US citizens and entities from doing business with either man or the 13 companies.