Vice President Tarek El Aissami responded today to seismic allegations yesterday from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that he was actively involved in a drug trafficking network that involved the shipment of illegal drugs into the United States via persona connections to the Los Zetas Cartel in Mexico.
The allegations came in the form of sanctions against El Aissami, a business representative named Samark Jose Lopez Bello, as well as thirteen corporate entities and an airplane believed to be connected to El Aissami. The sanctions freeze all of El Aissami’s assets in the United States, bans his entry into the country, and forbids any U.S. financial institution from conducting business with him.
El Aissami responded to the allegations through a series of tweets in which he denied the claims, and said that he was being unfairly targeted by U.S. authorities because he is one of the leaders of the Bolivarian revolution.
Below, my translation of El Aissami’s tweets:
In the face of imperialist infamy and aggression: 1) [My] MORALS ARE INTACT 2) [I now feel] MORE FIRM in my anti-imperialist CONVICTION 3) [I now feel] a stronger CHAVISTA consciousness!!
The TRUTH is invincible, and we will see this infamous aggression crumble. Now we will make our REVOLUTION even more IRREVERSIBLE with greater strength!!
Let us not be distracted by these miserable provocations, our primary goal is to accompany @NicolasMaduro in recovering the economy.
Let us concentrate on the priorities of the revolutionary government: economic recovery and growth and, to guarantee PEACE and social happiness.
On a personal matter, I’ve received this miserable and infamous aggression as a recognition of my condition as an anti-imperialist revolutionary!! VICTORY!
They will not be able to overcome our unbreakable resolution to be FREE forever!! Long live CHAVEZ!! Long live the BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION!! WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS!!
Ministry of Foreign Relations Reacts to Allegations
The Ministry of Foreign Relations also issued a statement today in reaction to the allegations against El Aissami, calling them “false” and saying that El Aissami is “a decent and dignified Venezuelan”.
The statement came via Foreign Affairs Ministry Delcy Rodriguez, who spoke on the sanctions by saying:
These actions that they’re trying to take against our vice president lack even the minimum standard of international law (…) this is an international attack against the high position of vice president Tareck El Aissami and the exercise of his functions.
It is not immediately clear what Rodriguez meant when she said that the sanctions did not meet international legal standards. Any country – not just the United States – has the ability to block physical and financial access to foreign individuals it suspects of being involved in criminal activities, which is a matter that is disconnected from international law.
Maduro: Sanctions “Illegal”
Maduro also reacted to the sanctions against El Aissami today by calling them “illegal” during a government event in Caracas. He also announced that he had instructed Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez to demand that the U.S. government publicly apologize for making the accusations.
Yesterday, I was informed of the illegal, scandalous and infamous decision that was made against our colleague vice president Tareck El Aissami. Without a doubt, this is an aggression to which Venezuela will respond step by step with balance and steadfastness.
I have instructed Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez to hold a meeting with the chargé d’affaires of the United States in Venezuela, and that she hand him a note of protest so that he can clarify and retract the serious accusations made against the vice president, and moreover that he apologize in public.
MUD, Opposition Politicians Call for Resignation, Investigation
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the country’s opposition bloc, issued an official statement today in reaction to the sanctions against El Aissami by issuing a press release. The release argues that “the only acceptable” action is “a serious investigation” into the allegations.
Below, my translation of the release:
In light of the sanctions announced yesterday, Monday February 13 2017, by the United States Department of the Treasury against citizen Tareck El Aissami, the executive vice president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and against a businessperson who is alleged to be his representative over alleged connections to drug trafficking, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica has fixed its position along the following terms:
- The tired “anti-imperialist” rhetoric cannot be the Maduro regime’s response to the delicate accusations against vice president El Aissami. The seriousness of the accusations and [El Aissami’s] high position deserve a serious response that would allow Venezuelans to clarify every detail of the situation.
In a democratic system, the usual course of action would be for an independent and transparent investigation to be opened by the Attorney General’s office so that Venezuelans could determine with precision the guilt or innocence of those involved. This is necessary for Venezuelans to be able to know all of the evidence that could be connected [to this case] in order to establish responsibility. It is not acceptable for the concept of sovereignty to be manipulated in order to impede and investigation, much less so to protect these individuals. The sanctions only have effect in the United States and applies to assets in the United States. This is a decision that was taken in accordance with the laws of that country, just as we may have made a similar decision.
- The only acceptable action is a serious investigation. We call on the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation to be carried out in an objective manner, asking for information from the United Nations and making use of international agreements in order to obtain the necessary evidence from outside and inside the country. That is what would show respect for Venezuela and Venezuelans, instead of looking for worn out and repeated excuses.
In light of this situation, it is worth asking the following questions: Is there or has there ever been a relationship between vice president El Aissami and drug traffickers mentioned in the sanctions? What was Makled’s testimony, which accused several Venezuelan officials [of being involved of drug trafficking] and who now finds himself in jail for drug trafficking? What is the relationship between El Aissami and Samark Lopez? Does Samark Lopez have connections to the Maduro regime? Where did all [El Aissami’s] wealth come from? Why does he have so many assets in the United States? These are some of the questions that we Venezuelans deserve an answer to. Corruption and drug trafficking have brought suffering to many and benefit to an elite few who today (un)govern our country.
- We will promote and support the investigations conducted from the National Assembly, which is the only public institution that is independent in the country. The Venezuelan people have a right to know the truth about this and similar situations of which there has been talk for a long time now but that have not resulted in any kind of investigation, during a time in which the National Assembly was also subjugated to the power of the executive. Once all evidence has been evaluated and the investigation has been conducted, we do not discount the possibility that parliament could and should use its powers under articles 187 and 240 of the Constitution, which allow it to censure the current vice president if the results of the investigation warrant that action.
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