United States vice president Mike Pence gave a speech at the Organization of American States (OAS) today in which he criticized the Maduro regime for its ongoing human rights violations and authoritarian tendencies, and called on the region to take a harsher stance against Caracas.
Today, we call on the members of this institution to abide by their longstanding compromise to democracy and liberty. We call on the members of the OAS to suspend Venezuelan from the organization.
Pence also called on member states to help ensure that Maduro “is held accountable for destroying Venezuelan democracy”, and suggested that they take steps to identify and neutralize attempts by regime members to “launder money through your financial systems”. As another measure, Pence also suggested that member states block entry into their countries by Maduro regime officials.
U.S. Department of the Treasury Sanctions More Venezuelans, Companies
Pence’s speech coincided with news from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that three Venezuelan nationals and 20 companies were being sanctioned for their alleged involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering operations.
The sanctioned individuals are:
- Pedro Luis Martin Olivares
- Walter Alexander Del Nogal Marquez
- Mario Antonio Rodriguez Espinoza
In a press release announcing the sanctions, the Department of the Treasury qualified Martin as “a significant foreign narcotics trafficker “, and accused Del Nogal and Rodriguez facilitating international drug trafficking operations. The same press release quotes Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin as saying:
This action is in response to Martin’s extensive drug trafficking and money laundering activities. Systemic corruption and a collapse in the rule of law are defining features of Venezuela’s government. We will deny corrupt Venezuelan regime officials access to the US financial system as we work with international partners to support the Venezuelan people in restoration of democracy and a return to prosperity.
The sanctions prohibit the entry of the named individuals into the United States. They also block all of their assets in the country and prohibit any U.S. entity from conduction business with them.
Martin is the former head of the DISIP, the precursor to the SEBIN, which is the regime’s political police. The sanctions press release outlines some of the activities of which he is accused:
Martin exploited his government position and accepted bribes from drug traffickers operating in Venezuela and Colombia as part of a broader scheme to facilitate the movement of narcotics from and through Venezuelan airspace; specifically, Martin shut down military radar and bribed other Venezuelan officials in furtherance of these activities. Martin also facilitated the movement of cocaine into Venezuela and paid Venezuelan military officials on Venezuela’s border with Colombia, allowing Martin’s associates to sell the cocaine to other drug trafficking organizations and corrupt Venezuelan officials. Martin has worked closely with other Venezuelan government officials to launder narcotics proceeds and other illicit funds, including Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, who was designated by OFAC on September 12, 2008 as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act.
Martin has facilitated the movement of multi-ton loads of cocaine and uses a number of money laundering methods, including the movement of U.S. dollars in bulk by aircraft, couriers, and contracts with third parties.
The Department of the Treasury also released this image showing the complicated network of shell companies it claims Martin and his accomplices were using to launder drug money:
Venezuela’s representative at the OAS, Samuel Moncada, called the sanctions “an international crime”, and called the organization “the most dangerous place in the world for Venezuela”.
~204,000 Venezuelan Living in Colombia Illegally
Colombia’s census of illegal Venezuelan migrants has tallied approximately 204,000 individuals s far, Colombian authorities revealed today. In a press conference updating the media on the ongoing census, Bogota’s chief border officer, Felipe Muñoz, said that with one month to go in the effort, authorities have counted 203,989 illegal Venezuelan migrants.
Muñoz explained that the act of being counted as an illegal migrant “does not change” the individual’s migration status, and that the census is being conducted purely for the purposes of giving Bogota a clearer picture of the migrant crisis.
Muñoz also said that approximately 80% of the illegal Venezuelan migrants that Bogota has identified expressed a desire to remain in Colombia indefinitely, while an unspecified percentage said that they would be willing to return to Venezuela is the situation in the country improved.
Photographer Captures Consequences of Crisis
A photographer named Jacinto Oliveros captured dramatic images over the weekend showing one of the consequences of the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
The images show an emaciated man wrapped in a torn cloth sitting on a sidewalk. The series of photographs–three in total–capture the man from different angles as three individuals walk by him. Two of them are visibly affected by the man’s condition.
The photographs were taken on Sunday in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state, at the intersection of Lara and Anzoategui avenues.
Below, the images:
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