Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury Monday, Feb. 13, on allegations he is at the center of an global drug trafficking operation with links to several cartels and drug lords.
The US also took action against Samark Lopez, a wealthy Venezuelan businessman who it said was a "front man" for Mr El Aissami.
Henry Ramos Allup, deputy to the National Assembly for the anti-government coalition, MUD, said he was certain that the Venezuelan government would accuse the U.S. Treasury Department of creating evidence against El Aissami.
On Twitter, El Aissami said the sanctions were a badge of honor. They also froze his access to a fortune estimated at $3 billion after a lengthy investigation of his alleged links to drug traffickers.
El Aissami's US assets were frozen and he'll be barred from entering the United States under the "Kingpin Act". In less than two decades, he rose from a provincial student organizer to the second most powerful man in the country under President Nicolás Maduro, with sweeping powers to allocate foreign currency, expropriate companies and jail his foes.
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"Truth is invincible and we will see this vile aggression dispelled".
He's not the first Venezuelan with ties to Maduro to be accused of drug trafficking.
Senior administration officials declined to say whether Trump had personally signed off on the sanctions or whether he was involved in the decision.
He made a name for himself in Venezuela by cracking down on drug gangs. Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez issued a joint statement Monday calling the step "long overdue", while Republican Senator Marco Rubio said he hoped the sanctions were "only the beginning". Denying a safe haven for illicit assets in the United States and protecting the USA financial system from abuse remain top priorities of the Treasury Department, said the official.
The move marks an escalation of the Obama administration's aggressive policies towards Venezuela, which saw Washington designate the South American country an "unusual and extraordinary threat" and sanction top officials.
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