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Trump Administration Sanctions Venezuelan Vice President For Alleged Drug Trafficking

Trump Administration Sanctions Venezuelan Vice President For Alleged Drug Trafficking

The U.S. Department of Treasury on Monday sanctioned El Aissami and an associate, Samark Lopez, on accusations of masterminding an worldwide network shipping drugs to Mexico and the United States. The U.S. government is also sanctioning Samark Lopez, a rich Venezuelan businessman thought to be El Aissami's main frontman.

El Aissami, for his part, has long faced allegations from USA politicians and global media outlets of links to drug traffickers and Islamic militant groups such as Hezbollah.

The US Department of the Treasury also sanctioned businessman Samark Jose Lopez Bello for providing “material assistance, financial support, or goods or services in support of the global narcotics trafficking activities of, and acting for or on behalf of, El Aissami, ” a top US official said in a telephone call with reporters.

On Twitter, El Aissami said the sanctions were a badge of honor.

He has also been accused of receiving payments from Walid Makled Garcia, a well-known businessman who has been charged with drug trafficking, arrested in Colombia in 2010 and while the United States requested his extradition, Colombia handed him over to Venezuela.

Earlier this month, 34 members of the US Congress sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for sanctions against Venezuelan officials.

The sanctions freeze their assets on United States territory, and also ban U.S. citizens and entities from doing business with either man or the 13 companies.

Sanders: Court ruling might 'teach President Trump a lesson'
The order created confusion in the country's airports and was challenged by the states of Washington and Minnesota. But it did not shy away from the larger constitutional questions raised by the order.

Senior administration officials declined to say whether Trump had personally signed off on the sanctions or whether he was involved in the decision.

It's unclear if Venezuela will retaliate diplomatically, but during past tensions it has ejected US officials.

In this February 1, 2017 photo, Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami, right, is saluted by Boilivarian Army officer upon his arrival for a military parade at Fort Tiuna in Caracas, Venezuela. At least according to U.S. officials.

This is not the first time El Aissami, a former governor of the state of Aragua, has been accused of drug trafficking. Today, he has become the highest-ranking official in Venezuela to be sanctioned by the United States.

"Let's not let these vile provocations distract us".

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran a widely circulated story accusing then Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello of heading a drug cartel, citing anonymous US Justice Department officials.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) praised the move but said it should be just the beginning.


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