Venezuela is moving up more and more every day on the national security radar.
On Monday, the Trump Administration made the moves to impose sanctions on Venezuelan VP Tareck el-Aissami and to freeze his U.S. assets. El-Aissami has been the source of much criticism as of late; it was just in January that Maduro appointed him his vice president. There have already been numerous accusations against El-Aissami, including relations with Hezbollah, selling illegal passports to terrorists for years, and now, the reason for the sanctions, being involved in major international drug trafficking. Hence his previous nickname, the “Narco of Aragua,” (Aragua being the Venezuelan state he previously governed).
Fox News reported on the administration’s reasoning.
The action Monday made no mention of any ties to Hezbollah but said El Aissami had worked with prominent drug traffickers in Mexico and Colombia to oversee multiple U.S.-bound cocaine shipments from Venezuela. Also sanctioned was Samark Lopez, a Venezuelan businessman the U.S. described as El Aissami's primary front man, who is accused of laundering proceeds from the drug trade through a network of companies and luxury real estate properties in the U.S., Panama, British Virgin Islands and Venezuela.
They went on to report that the Treasury imposed these sanctions directly after lawmakers called on the Trump Administration to do something in relation to Venezuela.
The move comes a week after a bipartisan group of 34 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Trump urging him to step up pressure on Venezuela's socialist government by immediately sanctioning top officials responsible for corruption and human rights abuses as well as El Aissami for his purported ties to Hezbollah.
The sanctions also come directly after CNN en Espanol published their in-depth report detailing operations of the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq selling Venezuelan passports and visas to possible terrorists. When, immediately following, President Maduro declared he wants CNN out of his country.
However, it seems that these sanctions and accusations have all but enraged the citizens of Venezuela and ultimately strengthened their anti-imperialist and anti-American sentiment, which was originally instilled by the late Hugo Chavez. There have already been tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela, who have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010, according to Fox News, and these recent actions against their VP will likely further this negativity.
Venezuelan Twitter is pretty PO’d right now and the U.S. is not on their good side.
The numerous hashtags echoing throughout twitter include, among others:
#VamosPaLanteTareck (Onward we go Tareck)
#TareckEsRevolucionyDignidad (Tareck is Revolution and Dignity)
#VenezuelaConTareck (Venezuela with Tareck)
With these tweets come attacks on the U.S. as a "terrorist empire" and infinite references to their revolution, their highly-hailed Chavez, and Simon Bolivar.
Maduro ignited the fire in statements made against the United States to defend his VP. In the tweet below, he is reported as saying, "We have to dismantle this slander that the U.S. has made against our Vice President."
The president of Venezuela's state-owned oil company (called PDVSA), Eulogio Del Pino, tweeted on the matter, saying that the oil workers reject the slanderous attack of the U.S. on the VP and exclaiming that they are "anti-imperialists."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.) announced in a tweet that this was the right move for the administration. She further commented later stating that this was just the "tip of the iceberg" towards the Latin American state.