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Venezuelan vice president slams drug sanctions in full-page NYT ad

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuelan vice president slams drug sanctions in full-page NYT ad
Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami (L), seen here alongside President Nicolas Maduro in January, took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Wednesday to reject drug trafficking charges from the U.S. Department of Treasury. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami bought a full-page advertisement in The New York Times in which he published an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin proclaiming his innocence over drug trafficking accusations.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Feb. 13 sanctioned El Aissami through its Office of Foreign Assets Control over allegations he has been involved in the shipment of thousands of pounds of illegal drugs.

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El Aissami was sanctioned under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. On Wednesday, El Aissami said the U.S. government lacked evidence to levy those claims and accused "political sectors, lobbyists and stakeholders" of attempting to deceive Mnuchin in an attempt to further deteriorate already fraught the relationship between the United States and Venezuela.

"They have built a false-positive case in order to criminalize -- through me -- the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," El Aissami wrote, adding that the U.S. Treasury Department's "decision constitutes a serious violation against my human rights and seriously damages my dignity and honor."

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El Aissami has been accused of working with radical Islamist groups such as Hezbollah to establish business interests in Central and South America to help them finance terrorism.

"Venezuela is waging an all-out war against drugs because it is a cross-border crime against humanity, and because such fight is a shared responsibility, as members of the international community," El Aissami wrote.

El Aissami, who was appointed executive vice president of Venezuela in January, is accused of controlling drug routes to ship narcotics since he was governor of the Venezuelan state of Aragua and while serving as Minister of Interior and Justice.

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El Aissami was responsible for shipping more than 2,200 pounds of narcotics from Venezuela to Mexico and the United States. He has been involved with other trafficking operations, some of which went to Venezuelan, Mexican and Colombian drug lords and cartels, according to the department's allegations.

"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.

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