U.S. sanctions Venezuelan vice president over drug trafficking

  • U.S. sanctions Venezuelan vice president over drug trafficking

U.S. sanctions Venezuelan vice president over drug trafficking

The US has imposed sanctions on the new vice-president of Venezuela, accusing him of involvement in worldwide drug trafficking.

President Nicolas Maduro's government has frequently cast US and opposition accusations of drug-trafficking, corruption and human rights abuses as a false pretext to justify meddling in Venezuela and a push to topple him.

The US Finance Ministry also noted that El Aissami was a close associate of drug lords from Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico who had already been under US sanctions.

The Treasury Department said El Aissami oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including shipments to Mexico and the United States.

A treasury official claimed that while Aissami held other government positions, numerous drug shipments were transported to USA and Mexico.

In a statement on his official Twitter account, El Aissami called on his supporters not to be "distracted" by what he decried as a "vile and miserable aggression".

"Long live CHAVEZ!" he wrote.

A former Obama administration official told the Associated Press that the move to levy sanctions against El Aissami was held up a year ago at the request of the State Department. Additionally, Lopez and El Aissami are barred from entering the United States.

Venezuela has become a major global hub for drug shipments, particularly cocaine, narcotics experts say.

The Venezuelan opposition is looking for greater pressure on Maduro from the new U.S. government.

With a reputation for being a radical among Chavista leaders, 42 year old El Aissami is the former Ministry of Interior and former governor of the Aragua region.

Trump has reportedly come under pressure by both sides of the political aisle to come down on Venezuela, which is experiencing an economic collapse and food shortage.

Maduro, whose popularity has fallen to 20 percent, is fending off opposition attempts to oust him.

"This is a tremendous gift to Maduro as it ensures El Aissami's loyalty". He is also linked to coordinating drug shipments for Los Zetas and providing protection to Colombian drug lord Daniel Barrera Barrera and Venezuelan drug trafficker Hermagoras Gonzalez Polanco, according to the United States document.

Washington and Caracas have been at odds for more than a decade and the Nicolás Maduro administration has often accused the US of being part of a broader plot to topple his four-year-old administration.