Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami published an open letter to the U.S. Treasury Department in the New York Times Tuesday, insisting that its decision to freeze his assets is "both absurd and pathetic" because it is based on no evidence, violates international law and shows ignorance of successful drug policy.
The Treasury Department, under the Trump administration, put El Aissami on a sanctions list last week for allegedly aiding drug traffickers and Middle Eastern terrorists, despite El Aissami claiming that Venezuelan crackdowns on drug trafficking during his tenure heading the security corps saw the country witness the “greatest progress in our history and in the western hemisphere” on transnational drug trafficking.
He cited figures, like the significant jump in the tons of drugs seized per year once he led the fight, versus when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was still operating in Venezuela.
The open letter was addressed to the recently-appointed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and published as a full-page advert in Tuesday’s issue.
The sanctions show that "you have been deceived by political sectors, lobbyists and stakeholders in the U.S. whose essential interest is to prevent that the United States and Venezuela restore their political and diplomatic relations on the basis of mutual recognition and respect," wrote El Aissami.
A bipartisan group of 34 U.S. lawmakers urged Trump to apply new sanctions against Venezuela, claiming that the country supports corruption and human rights abuses. The lawmakers pushed for an investigation into the Bolivarian government’s alleged ties to terrorism and maintained that he “supervised or had partial ownership" of drug shipments from Venezuela of more than one ton on multiple occasions, ultimately wishing to boost funding for Venezuelan right-wing opposition groups.
El Aissami claimed that the accusations were "crafted by bureaucrats and anti-Venezuelan stakeholders, which sets a dangerous precedent in the relation between sovereign nations."
What’s more, by punishing the vice president, the U.S. is acting "as an extraterritorial police and without having powers to do so" while failing to acknowledge that the "'war on drugs' has failed all over the planet and especially in the U.S. territory."
"The United States owes the world and their own people a reflection on the resounding failure of their fight against drugs," writes El Aissami.
A week before sending the letter, El Aissami took to Twitter, appealing to his supporters “that these miserable provocations do not distract us, our main task is to accompany Nicolas Maduro in the economic recovery.”
The vice president said that he took the “miserable and vile aggression as an acknowledgment of (his) status as an anti-imperialist revolutionary.”
The move by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control put the official on the Specially Designated Nationals list, freezing any of El Aissami’s assets in the U.S. and prohibiting U.S. citizens from having any dealings with the vice president. El Aissami claimed in the letter, though, that he has no assets in the U.S. or abroad, proving that they acted on the basis of no evidence.
El Aissami was appointed to his new role by President Nicolas Maduro on Jan. 4. The son of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, El Aissami was a student leader before assuming the post of minister of interior and justice in 2008 and then winning the governorship of Aragua state in 2012.
On Jan. 14, the U.S. renewed the " national emergency" declaration against Venezuela because of the alleged "unusual and extraordinary threat" that the South American country poses to the security of the U.S., part of an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama in March 2015.
Speaking to media the day after, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez also slammed the sanctions, calling them an attack on the vice president’s “rights, honor and reputation” that is both “lamentable and highly dangerous.”