NEW YORK – Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami denied in an open letter published by The New York Times on Wednesday that he had assets or bank accounts in the United States after the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on him for alleged drug trafficking.
“I have no assets or accounts in the United States or in any country of the world, and it is both absurd and pathetic that an American administrative body – without presenting any evidence – adopts a measure to freeze goods and assets that I do not own at all,” El Aissami wrote in the advertisement.
On Jan. 13, the Treasury Department announced economic sanctions against El Aissami, accusing him of playing a leading role in international narcotics smuggling after a “years-long investigation on drug trafficking.”
The sanctions also included Samark Jose Lopez Bello, a businessman whom US authorities consider a proxy for El Aissami and who, according to the Treasury, has provided financial and material support to drug trafficking organizations.
A day after the sanctions were announced, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the measure would freeze “tens of millions of dollars” in the United States, but he provided no additional details.
In his open letter, El Aissami said US authorities had been “deceived” by lobbyists and stakeholders trying to prevent a normalization of US-Venezuelan relations, which have been frayed since 2010.
These interest groups, El Aissami said, lack evidence to support their “extremely serious” allegations.
The letter refers to drug enforcement efforts in Venezuela in recent years, including drug seizures, arrests of traffickers and the extradition of dozens of suspects to the United States and Colombia.
El Aissimi noted that anti-drug efforts in Venezuela were the most successful in the Western Hemisphere while he served as interior minister between 2008-2012.
“They have built a false-positive case in order to criminalize – through me – the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” El Aissami said.