The Trump administration announced sanctions Monday against the Vice President of Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami, and an associate. The Treasury Department designation of El Aissami came under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. From Reuters:
“El Aissami facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan airbase, as well as control of drug routes through the ports of Venezuela,” a senior U.S. administration official told a conference call with reporters.
“El Aissami oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1000 kg from Venezuela on multiple occasions including shipments from Mexico and to the United States,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bloomberg reports targets of the sanctions, “have their assets blocked and U.S. citizens, institutions and companies are prohibited worldwide from dealing with them.” Also targeted by the sanctions was an associate of El Aissami’s named Samark Lopez Bello, a wealthy Venezuelan described as a “frontman” by the Treasury Department. Thirteen companies owned by Lopez Bello were targeted by Treasury.
Last week a group of 34 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to the Trump administration calling for more sanctions on the socialist regime. The letter specifically mentioned El Aissami who has been on the U.S. radar for years. From the Associated Press:
Lawmakers reserved their most-stinging criticism for El Aissami, a hardliner socialist who would take over from Maduro should the president step down or be removed, as his opponents are seeking. El Aissami has been targeted by U.S. law enforcement since almost a decade ago, when dozens of fraudulent Venezuelan passports ended up in the hands of people from the Middle East, including alleged members of Hezbollah. He was also accused in 2011 by one of the nation’s top drug traffickers of taking bribes through his brother to allow huge shipments of cocaine to leave from the country’s main port.
“Given these reports, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, and his prominence in the regime, we urge the appropriate agencies to thoroughly investigate Tareck El Aissami’s conduct and activities,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, Venezuelans desperate to escape the socialist nightmare created by President Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez have resulted in Venezuela becoming the number one country in one metric: asylum requests. More than 18,000 requests were made to the U.S. last year, six times the number made in 2014.