The Trump administration's move Monday to sanction Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami and accuse him of being a drug kingpin drew immediate support from Miami Republican lawmakers.
Five days ago, 34 members of Congress from both political parties -- led by Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez -- urged President Donald Trump in a letter to target El Aissami and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's inner circle. The letter was also signed by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and several Florida representatives.
Here are some key reactions from Monday:
The Venezuelan government is run by corrupt, incompetent and criminal thugs who have inflicted misery on their own people and routinely used violence to crush dissent. For years, I’ve talked about how Venezuelan regime officials are committing crimes in Venezuela, stealing from the Venezuelan people and then spending their riches living in the lap of luxury in Miami. Today’s announcement further confirms how true this is, and the extent to which corrupt and criminal Venezuelan regime officials have been allowed to freely travel and prance around U.S. soil with impunity.
I’m hopeful this is only the beginning of making sure the Maduro regime feels pressure to cease its illicit activities, free all political prisoners, tolerate dissent, and respect the will of the Venezuelan people, who voted to abandon the disastrous path of Chavez and Maduro.
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo:
The rise to power of Tareck El Aissami has been an alarming development for anyone desiring a future of freedom, democracy, and dignity for the Venezuelan people. These sanctions send a strong message of solidarity to the people of Venezuela and against the gangsters who have destroyed that country and brought so many Venezuelans to the point of starvation. I’m grateful the Administration took such swift action after my colleagues and I urged the President to sanction this Maduro thug last week. I look forward to continuing to work with this Administration to prioritize human rights and hold corrupt regimes accountable.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:
I thank President Trump and his administration for taking swift action on our letter to sanction a corrupt and dangerous Maduro regime operative. I greatly appreciate the ability to work closely with the White House on such an important issue to our national security within our hemisphere. Human rights abuses and corruption inVenezuela continue to escalate, and El Aissami’s recent appointment as Maduro’s right-hand thug will only worsen conditions for the Venezuelan people. El Aissami is an infamous narcotrafficker under investigation by the U.S. government for drug crimes.
I commend the Trump Administration for taking a strong stand against the oppressive, anti-American Maduro regime, and I look forward to working with the White House in pressing for human rights, rule of law and a restoration of democratic institutions for the Venezuelan people.
Ros-Lehtinen (with Menendez):
Adding Tareck El-Aissami and Samark Jose Lopez Bello to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list is long overdue, but we welcome these sanctions because they signal a fundamental step in charting a positive role the United States can continue to play given the deteriorating crisis in Venezuela. Last week, we led a bicameral and bipartisan letter to the administration calling for action against Maduro regime officials responsible for the Venezuelan people’s suffering and we welcome this and any additional efforts to support Venezuelans languishing under this corrupt and repressive regime. With democracy under total siege in Venezuela and without any due process or rule of law left, we can and must do more to hold the Maduro regime accountable, including all those in the kangaroo court responsible for the unjust incarceration of Leopoldo Lopez. We commend the Administration for acting quickly and decisively as the human rights violations, political persecution and impunity in Venezuela cannot go unpunished.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston:
Placing Tareck El-Aissami and his key front man Samark Jose Lopez Bello on the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list is an important move that will allow the United States to play a much tougher role in reversing the dramatically worsening political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
The corrupt Maduro regime has shredded any due process protections, and unleashed a brutal campaign of political persecution and human rights abuses. I strongly support these sanctions, and the swift push to punish those responsible for using it as an excuse to further pillage and punish the Venezuelan people. These sanctions are overdue, and ensure that the United States cannot be used as a financial haven for these illicit, narco-stained assets.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R):