Treasury secretary announces Venezuela sanctions

Venezuela’s vice president shrugged off U.S. sanctions identifying him as a major international drug trafficker, saying Tuesday that the actions by the Trump administration only deepen his commitment to the anti-imperialist revolution started by the late Hugo Chavez.

In a series of defiant messages posted on social media, Tareck El Aissami said the “miserable and defamatory aggression” by the U.S. won’t distract him from his job of rescuing Venezuela’s crashing economy from what he called sabotage by its conservative opponents.

The Trump administration on Monday froze El Aissami’s U.S. assets and banned him from entering the U.S. for his alleged role facilitating cocaine shipments from Venezuela. El Aissami is the highest-ranking Venezuelan official to ever be sanctioned by the U.S. and his designation as a drug kingpin is bound to ratchet up tensions between the two countries, which have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

Trump’s newly-confirmed Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told reporters on Tuesday the sanctions “demonstrate the president’s seriousness about fighting the scourge of drugs in the United States.” Trump, he said, also wanted to “to send a clear message to the people of Venezuela that America stands with them.”