Drug Kingpin Leading Venezuelan Bond Talks Has a Violent Streak

BloombergVice President Tareck El Aissami has summoned bondholders to a meeting in Caracas as Venezuela prepares to restructure its crushing debt. For some, the meeting could land them behind bars.

El Aissami, sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department this year after accusations he oversaw a cocaine-smuggling network, is one of the nation’s iron-fisted political operatives. Often in charge of delivering President Nicolas Maduro’s most critical messages, he blasts critics publicly, exposing supposed conspiracy rings and threatening legal action against dissident leaders from National Assembly President Julio Borges to Luisa Ortega, the public-prosecutor-turned-whistle-blower.

Now, he’s in charge of a delicate financial dance in which investors and funds risk running afoul of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets. Not only do U.S. sanctions prohibit Americans from receiving new bonds that Venezuela would hand them as part of a restructuring, but El Aissami is designated as a narcotics trafficker under the Kingpin Act. American corporate officers dealing with him run the risk of fines and prosecution of as much as $5 million and 30 years in prison. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.