Venezuela VP Blasts Drug Sanctions in Full-Page NY Times Ad

February 22, 2017 Updated: February 22, 2017
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CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela’s vice president took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Wednesday to lash out at the Trump administration’s decision to sanction him for drug trafficking.

In the public letter, Tareck El Aissami called the accusations against him baseless as well as a violation of his human rights and dignity.

“You have been deceived by political sectors, lobbyists and stakeholders in the U.S. whose essential interest is to prevent that the United States and Venezuelan restore their political and diplomatic relations on the basis of mutual recognition and respect,” said the letter, which is addressed to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“These stakeholders not only lack any evidence to demonstrate the extremely serious accusations against me, but they also have built a false-positive case in order to criminalize—through me—the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

He also touted his record as interior minister from 2008 to 2012, saying he had extradited 21 captured drug lords to the United States.

The Treasury Department last week froze El Aissami’s American bank accounts and those of an alleged business associate for allegedly helping facilitate large cocaine shipments from Venezuela. El Aissami said he has no assets or accounts in the United States.

El Aissami accused the Drug Enforcement Administration, which the late Hugo Chavez expelled from Venezuela, of criminal ties and lacking a commitment to fight the drug war.

“How many chiefs of criminal drug organizations have been captured by the U.S. in its territory? How many banks and tax havens have been closed down by the U.S. for supporting this gigantic illegal business and crime against humanity?” he wrote.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and Vicepresident Tareck El Aissami greet supporters before the ceremony where Maduro gave a speech reviewing his year in office at the Supreme Court of Justice in Caracas on Jan. 15, 2017.  (JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and Vice President Tareck El Aissami greet supporters before the ceremony where Maduro gave a speech reviewing his year in office at the Supreme Court of Justice in Caracas on Jan. 15, 2017.
(JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

El Aissami, 42, has been the target of U.S. law enforcement investigation for years, stemming from his days as interior minister when dozens of fraudulent Venezuelan passports ended up in the hands of people from the Middle East, including alleged members of Hezbollah.

Venezuela’s top convicted drug trafficker, Walid Makled, before being sent back from Colombia in 2011, said he paid bribes through El Aissami’s brother to officials so they would turn a blind eye to cocaine shipments that have proliferated from Venezuelan ports and airports during the past two decades of socialist rule.

The action made no mention of any ties to Hezbollah but said El Aissami had worked with drug traffickers in Mexico and Colombia to oversee multiple U.S.-bound cocaine shipments from Venezuela of over 1,000 kilograms.