U.S. issues sanctions on three Venezuelans, 20 companies

May 7 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of the Treasury placed sanctions on three Venezuelans and 20 entities related to drug trafficking Monday.

Vice President Mike Pence announced the sanctions during a speech at the Organization of American States in Washington D.C., describing the subjects as narcotics “kingpins” with direct ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

“We have frozen their assets, blocked their access to our nation, so they can no longer poison our people with their deadly drugs,” Pence said.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it identified Venezuelan national Pedro Luis Martin Olivares “as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.”

Martin exploited his position as a former Chief of Financial Intelligence for Venezuela’s National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services and accepted bribes from drug traffickers in Venezuela and Colombia to traffic narcotics through Venezuelan airspace, OFAC said.

He also worked closely with other Venezuelan government officials to launder narcotics proceeds and other illicit funds and facilitated the movement of multi-ton loads of cocaine.

“This action is in response to Martin’s extensive drug trafficking and money laundering activities. Systemic corruption and a collapse in the rule of law are defining features of Venezuela’s government,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “We will deny corrupt Venezuelan regime officials access to the U.S. financial system as we work with international partners to support the Venezuelan people in restoration of democracy and a return to prosperity.”

Walter Alexander Del Nogal Marquez and Mario Antonio Rodriguez Espinoza were also designated for assisting Martin in his international narcotics trafficking activities.

OFAC further designated 20 companies, 16 based in Venezuela and four in Panama, that were owned or controlled by the three men and allegedly used to launder illicit proceeds from narcotics trafficking and extortion.

In addition to announcing the sanctions, Pence also condemned Venezuela’s upcoming May 20 election as a “fake election, with a fake outcome.”

“Suspend this sham election. Hold real elections. Give the people of Venezuela real choices because the Venezuelan people deserve to live in democracy once again,” he said.

In January the Treasury Department issued sanctions against four Venezuelan government officials accused of having associations with corruption and repression.