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U.S. sanctions Venezuela's vice president as "drug trafficker"

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. sanctioned Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami on Monday, calling him a “prominent Venezuelan drug trafficker.”

In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated El Aissami as “a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.” 

The U.S. is also sanctioning Samark Bello, a wealthy businessman connected to El Aissami who has held significant business interests in the U.S. The U.S. says Bello provided assistance or support to El Aissami’s trafficking activities.   

“OFAC further designated or identified as blocked property 13 companies owned or controlled by Lopez Bello or other designated parties that comprise an international network spanning the British Virgin Islands, Panama, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela,” the U.S. Treasury Department statement said.

It said that as a result of Monday’s action, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealing with the individuals and entities. It added that any assets the individuals and entities may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. 

El Aissami has been the target of U.S. law enforcement for years over ties to the nation’s largest convicted drug trafficker and a Middle Eastern militant group. The U.S. move freezes his assets in the U.S. and bars him from entering the U.S.

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