CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that his government will demand that the United States retract the charges of drug trafficking brought against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami by the US Department of the Treasury.
“I have ordered the foreign minister of the republic (Delcy Rodriguez) to summon the US charge d’affaires in Venezuela to deliver him a note of protest and demand that he explain and retract these accusations,” Maduro, with El Aissami at his side, told a dozen Chavista governors on a program that all channels were ordered to broadcast.
The president described the accusations as an “illegal, unheard of and infamous decision” and as “an act of aggression to which Venezuela will respond step by step in a balanced, forceful way.”
“May the US publicly apologize to our executive vice president...but let’s just see how they intend to slander a man who, as interior minister, was the very best,” he said.
In that regard, the head of state said that while El Aissami was head of the Interior and Justice Ministry – between 2008 and 2012 – “Venezuela struck the hardest blows against the drug lords that they ever received.”
He said that while El Aissami was minister, 102 drug kingpins were captured and 21 of them were extradited to the US, which won El Aissami “congratulations from the government” of the North American nation, which is fully documented, so that, he said, the recent accusations appear to be “the revenge of the drug traffickers.”
“Venezuela will activate all the legal, political, diplomatic, national and international mechanisms to destroy this infamy,” Maduro said, and called on Venezuelans to defend the vice president and the Bolivarian Revolution.
The president also said that these accusations show that members of the Venezuelan opposition have gone to Washington to “lobby” and “conspire against our homeland.”
“He’s accused of being a terrorist and a drug trafficker, well listen, the terrorists, those who have financed terrorism in the world to destroy Syria, Iraq and Libya are in the United States, in power, and the drug traffickers store their riches in bank accounts in the United States,” he said.
The US Department of the Treasury also sanctioned businessman Samark Jose Lopez Bello for providing “material assistance, financial support, or goods or services in support of the international narcotics trafficking activities of, and acting for or on behalf of, El Aissami,” a top US official said in a telephone call with reporters.
After a “multi-year investigation,” the US Department of the Treasury determined Monday that El Aissami had supervised or partially possessed drug shipments weighing more than 1,000 kilos (a ton) from Venezuela on a number of occasions, including some with final destinations in Mexico and the United States.
El Aissami said Monday that this “miserable aggression” has put him in “high spirits” with even “greater anti-imperialist strength and conviction” and “more of a Chavista conscience.”