Fort Lauderdale, February 15, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced Tuesday that his government will take legal and diplomatic actions in response to US sanctions against the nation's vice-president over drug trafficking allegations.
“Venezuela will use all legal, diplomatic and political mechanisms to dismantle this infamy," the head of state declared.
On Monday, the US Treasury Department froze all of Tareck El Aissami’s alleged assets in the United States under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. El Aissami is the highest-ranking official of any country to be sanctioned in this manner.
However, the US government has yet to produce concrete evidence proving El Aissami’s ties to drug trafficking. The Venezuelan vice-president has long been accused by US politicians and international media pundits of having links to drug cartels and Islamic militant groups.
On Tuesday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez met with the US chargé d'affaires in Venezuela, Lee McClenny, to whom she delivered an offiical letter of protest addressed to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department.
According to ministry’s official twitter account, Rodríguez also demanded that the US diplomatic officer respect Vice-President El Aissami, citing Vienna Convention provisions.
The Bolivarian government has considered the sanctions as part of a sustained campaign to destabilize the country and discredit Venezuelan authorities.
Venezuelan Ombudsman Tarek William Saab echoed this sentiment referring to the sanctions against El Aissami as “a new heigtening escalation against civilian and military authorities who have not knelt before foreign [US] military force, which has occupied territories and massively violated human rights throughout the world while the hands of its authorities are drenched with blood.”
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) also issued a statement in solidarity with El Aissami expressing their “unconditional support.”
"The National Bolivarian Armed Forces expresses the most categorical rejection in light of the latest act of US intervention...formulating accusations absolutely lacking in foundation and legality," read the statement signed by Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López.
The FANB emphasized that these sanctions "have a Machiavellian purpose of undermining the image of our national executive power, and therefore, the institutionality, governance and stability of our country."
The statement calls out the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), saying it "is systematically and criminally used to target progressive states and governments based on sinister interests. In this case, as in many others, they make use of false positives, vilification, intrigue and disinformation. "
For its part, Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly pledged to launch an inquiry into the vice-president's conduct, indicating that it would solicit official information regarding the case from Washington. The body likewise announced that it would request the Public Prosecutor's office to open an official investigation.
The latest US sanctions follow on the heels of the outgoing Obama administration's renewal last month of an executive order branding Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security.
In recent weeks, the US Congress has been urging the new Trump administration to take a more aggressive stance towards Caracas.
Last week, 34 US legislators issued a statement advocating for harsher sanctions against Venezuela. The bipartisan letter was co-written by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) and Senator Menendez (D-New Jersey) known for their hardline opposition to leftist and progressive governments in Latin America and the Caribbean.