After years of investigations over alleged drug-trafficking and money-laundering, Venezuela's vice-president Tareck El Aissami faces sanctions by US authorities as a "specially designated national." El Aissami would be the highest-ranking Venezuelan official hit by U.S. sanctions, and we are sure will warrant a furious response from President Maduro who has already accused US of 'economic war' numerous times... and being responsible for forcing his people to resort to eating flamingoes now.
The sanctions mark an extraordinary step against the second-in-command of a foreign government and are sure to lead to a further deterioration in U.S. relations with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who appointed El Aissami as vice president on Jan. 4 amid a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis. El Aissami, the son of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, has long been one of Venezuela’s most controversial and feared politicians. In just over a decade, the 42-year-old climbed government ranks from a student leader in rural Venezuela, to interior minister, to his previous post as the governor of Aragua state.
After being tapped by Maduro to lead a "commando unit" against alleged coup plotters and officials suspected of treason, Bloomberg reports, his ascent prompted a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers to call last week for further measures against Maduro’s government. In a Feb. 8 letter to President Donald Trump, 34 members of Congress including Senators Ted Cruz and Robert Menendez cited El Aissami’s appointment and urged the U.S. to “take immediate action to sanction regime officials.”
Amid hyperinflationary chaos, El Aissami, nicknamed “the narco of Aragua” by Venezuela’s beleaguered opposition, has thrived. As Bloomberg details, critics allege he has used his vast political network to help turn the country into an international hub for drugs. The State Department, in its 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, described the Caribbean nation as a “major cocaine transit country,” citing “endemic corruption throughout commerce and government, including law enforcement.”
The vice president’s ties to the nation’s civil registry services before he became interior minister have also fueled accusations by U.S. investigators that he’s aided Middle Eastern extremists by allowing them to create Venezuelan identities and a web of front companies to move money outside the country’s borders.
The U.S. move would worsen a relationship long strained by mistrust and Venezuelan accusations that Washington supported a failed attempt to overthrow then-President Hugo Chavez in 2002. In the years following the attempted coup, Chavez aggressively criticized U.S. ties to Latin America, helped lead rallies around South America against “Yankee aggression” and nationalized investments by companies including U.S.-based Exxon Mobil Corp.
Meanwhile, as the so-called "narco of aguara" enjoyed the high-life, the people of his socialist have resorted to eating flamingoes and anteaters... (as The Miami-Herald reports)
Biology student Luis Sibira stumbled across the first set of gory remains last November: eight pink flamingos, their breasts and torsos sliced out, leaving their heads, spindly legs and vivid feathers scattered across the marshy ground at Las Peonias Lagoon in western Venezuela.
Flamingo hunting is both illegal and unusual at the lagoon, less than 200 miles from the Colombian border. Sibera, who had been studying the pink birds that nest there for years, had never seen anything remotely like that before.
Since then, though, he's seen at least 20 similar cases, most recently in January, when he found several carcasses hidden under shrubs, with a shotgun shell nearby.
But this isn’t simple poaching, he said. Sibira and other investigators from Zulia University, a public university in Maracaibo, are convinced that the protected birds have become the latest victims of Venezuela's growing hunger crisis. People have become so desperate, he said, that they are butchering and eating flamingos.
There are other signs that food shortages have led to the slaughtering of animals not generally considered meat: giant anteaters, for one.
Doris Rubio, CEO of the Venezuela-based Animal Protection Association, is alarmed. But she also understands what’s going on.
“We find these killings grotesque, but how can we be critical of someone who hunts a pigeon, a dog, a cat or any animal because he or she is hungry?” she asked.
“People used to hunt lizards for sport. Now they do it out of necessity.”
Ricardo Boscan, the head of Maracaibo’s waste collection department, said that six out of every 10 garbage bags or trash cans are being looted by hungry people. “The situation has gotten worse since 2015," he said. "It’s happening because hunger is rising to a massive scale.” But resorting to flamingos is something new.
Of course, President Maduro will use this as an excuse to blame the 'yankees' for the utter horror that his policies have uneleashed on a once wealthy nation.