Vice president Tareck El Aissami spoke publicly at length for the first time on the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctions placed on him two weeks ago over allegations that he is a “prominent drug trafficker”. While El Aissami reacted to the news on Twitter two days later and on a full-page ad on the New York Times this week, he spoke personally on the matter on the Jose Vicento Hoy television show.
During the interview, El Aissami said that he did not have bank accounts or property anywhere in the world except for Venezuela, and that he was certain that the Department of the Treasury had no evidence linking him to any wrongdoing.
El Aissami also alleged that the sources of the information used by the Department of the Treasury are four drug traffickers currently in custody in the United States that he extradited to that country while he served as Minister of the Interior. El Aissami said:
We captured them and we handed them over because they were wanted by U.S. authorities. They then used these same criminals as part of a scheme to accuse the Venezuelan government. This sends a very serious and dangerous signal.
When asked if he had ever visited the United States, El Aissami said:
I’ve never had a [U.S.] visa. I’ve never been to the U.S., and I’ve asked asked for [a visa].
El Aissami claimed that the ad that he took out in Wednesday’s edition of the New York Times -which was replete with grammatical errors and dubious claims– had “shaken U.S. society” because it had helped to expose how “they are using their institutions to attack another people without any evidence”.
Still, El Aissami said that he feels “privileged” to be the target of sanctions, since he believes that the U.S. government is punishing him for being a revolutionary leader.
El Aissami explained how he thinks the sanctions may have sprung, and pointed to a vast conspiracy involving “mafias” and the media. He said:
This is about actions that were already being developed and that ended with this latest aggression. We are convinced that this accusation is part of the “Obama Package”, coming from failed lobbyists in Miami and the “Miami Mafia” which are still trying to make Venezuela a target of confrontation in order to unleash the hatred of the empire against our people. [This happened] hand-in-hand with manipulation from CNN En Español, which has been highlighted and unmasked as a weapon of war in order to create violence and terrorism in Venezuela.
El Aissami: CNN Blocked Because It Attacked Venezuela
Last week, the Venezuelan regime blocked CNN from the country’s airwaves after the network aired a special investigating claims that the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad had sold fraudulent passports and other travel documents.
During today’s interview on Jose Vicente Hoy, El Aissami explained the reason for the decision, alleging that that network had lied about its reporting on Venezuela in order to help justify U.S. intervention in the country. El Aissami said:
We took the decision to take that channel off the air because the arguments that they used against Venezuela were false. They wanted to generate violence (…) they call us a failed state in order to justify intervention. They call us mobsters, criminals and drug traffickers. This is not new, because they also did it to us under Chavez.
El Aissami also said that CNN had not allowed him to respond to the allegations made against him through the sanctions, suggesting that he had in fact contacted the network and asked for air time.
El Aissami: Maduro’s Nephews “Kidnapped”
El Aissami also became the highest-ranking regime figure to speak on the conviction of Efrain and Francisco Flores, two of Maduro’s nephews, for attempting to smuggle cocaine into the United States. After being arrested in Haiti by agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the two men signed confessions explaining how much money they expected to have made from the drug trafficking operation they had tried to set up, and that smuggling drugs out of Venezuela would have been easy for them given their connection to Maduro.
Referring to the Flores cousins, El Aissami said:
… they’ve also kidnapped two of their [Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores] family members who are currently kidnapped unjustly in the United States, in a United States prison…
Efrain and Francisco were represented at trial by a prestigious law firm, a service which was paid for by a Venezuelan businessman called Wilmer Ruperti. They were found guilty by a jury in a New York City court on November 18.
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