Drug trafficking flourishes in Venezuela's chaotic socialist regime erected by Hugo Chavez decades ago. On Monday, the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking. El Aissami, who allegedly governed over cocaine shipments weighing over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela into the United States, is the highest-ranking Venezuelan to be targeted with an executive decree.
According to Walid Makled, Venezuela's number one convicted drug smuggler, traffickers would simply pay bribes to El Aissami's brother in exchange for them turning a blind eye to innumerable kilos of cocaine leaving Venezuela's ports and airports.
The U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned Samark Lopez, who is described as El Aissami's frontman. As part of the executive action, 13 companies owned or controlled by Lopez will be blocked from doing business in the US. Five of those companies are based in Florida, and some of Lopez's properties in the Miami area are worth millions of dollars. Several of the US companies listed their address at a swank $2.4 million Miami condo.
A week ago, a bipartisan group of 34 U.S. Lawmakers pressured Trump to address corruption within Venezuela's socialist government. Even though Lopez typically shuttled between the US and Venezuela using his privately owned Gulfstream 200 jet, that jet has also been banned under the executive action.
Mark Feierstein, whow served as Obama's top national security adviser on Latin America, approves of the sanctions. “This was an overdue step to ratchet up pressure on the Venezuelan regime and signal that top officials will suffer consequences if they continue to engage in massive corruption, abuse human rights and dismantle democracy,” Feierstein told the Washington Post, stipulating that “the sanctions in and of themselves will not bring about a democratic transition.”
Venezuela's relationship with the United States dissolved years ago, and ambassadors haven't been exchanged between the two nations since 2010. Socialist President Nicolás Maduro defended El Aissami, claiming that more than 100 kingpins had been caught during his tenure in the Venezuela government. He called former President Trump a “mental patient,” but has also said that Trump “won't be worse than Obama.” The sanctions are legal under Clinton administration-era rules that allow the U.S. Government to go after anyone who is considered a “drug kingpin.