Washington, Feb 13 (EFE).- The US government on Monday imposed economic sanctions on Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for “for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.”
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 international narcotics trafficking activities of, and acting for or on behalf of, El Aissami,” a top US official said in a telephone call with reporters.
The sanctions were not a reaction, the official said, to the appointment in January of El Aissami to the Venezuelan vice presidency.
The move “is 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 E. Smith, acting director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“This case highlights our continued focus on narcotics traffickers and those who help launder their illicit proceeds through the United States. Denying a safe haven for illicit assets in the United States and protecting the U.S. financial system from abuse remain top priorities of the Treasury Department,” said the official.
The sanctions block the assets of the two individuals under US jurisdiction and forbid US citizens from engaging in transactions with them.
Including a member of the Venezuelan government on the list of Treasury sanctions does not mean that the Venezuelan government is also being sanctioned, said the Treasury.
A total of 34 US lawmakers last week asked President Donald Trump to take immediate measures to punish Venezuelan government officials who are “benefitting” from human rights violations that, they say, are occurring in the oil-producing nation.
On Jan. 4, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced that El Aissami – who until that point had been governor of the central state of Aragua – would serve as the country’s new vice president.