Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro holds a Russian sniper rifle during a military maneuver in Caracas in mid-January - Image CTN News

“US policy towards Venezuela is changing radically,” said Venezuelan political adviser Esteban Gerbasi. “We are going to witness a significant change in foreign policy and the abandonment of Washington’s passivity towards Latin America.”

This change, under the new administration of Donald Trump could lead to the application of new sanctions against senior leaders involved in drug trafficking and members of an extensive financial network that washes money, as well as the undertaking of a diplomatic offensive on the battered Venezuelan democracy.

“New players will be added to the list of sanctions, including important bankers of the regime, and entrepreneurs,” predicted Gerbasi, who is frequently consulted by influential people in Washington on security issues related to Venezuela.

These forecasts are based on the extensive information accumulated by Venezuelan security agencies about the participation of senior officials of the Bolivarian regime in illicit activities and the links that some of its members have with radical organizations in the Middle East.

“These are long-standing investigations that are now beginning to bear fruit”, Gerbasi said.

Expected tightening of US policy toward Venezuela are also forecast by the White House under the Trump administration who are willing to play a much more active role in Latin America.

“The fact that Trump, less than 4 weeks into his new administration has talked to the president of Colombia and invited him to the White House, spoke twice to the president of Argentina and invited him to theite House, and has done the same with the president of Peru, “is a sign of that intention, said Gerbasi.

“Vice President Mike Pence also talked to the president of Brazil,  the main topic of that conversation was the crisis in Venezuela and the need to help it take back the constitutional and democratic path,” he added.

On Monday the US government took a first step in that new direction, applying sanctions against El Aissami, calling the “Venezuelan vice president a major player in international narcotics trafficking”.

The measure also involved Venezuelan businessman Samark López who is considered to be one of the top leaders of El Aissami, and other key leaders of the Maduro regime.

“The Aissami facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela with planes taking off from a Venezuelan air base”, as well “as controlling drug routes leaving Venezuelan ports”, said the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a unit of the Department of Treasure.

The vice president, who would assume the presidency of Venezuela if Maduro left power, was also accused of “protecting other drug traffickers and working with Mexican and Colombian cartels”, said the OFAC announcement.

There is new hope generating among those who have been demanding that Washington take seriously the threat posed by Chavism to US national security.

“Finally, we are seeing movement and leadership on the part of the US government to isolate a Venezuelan leadership that for almost two decades has led an anti-democratic movement in Latin America mixed with drug trafficking and alliances with outlaw elements,” said Luis Fleischman, Senior Center for Security Policy and professor at Barry University,

But Fleischman insisted that actions against El Aissami should only be seen as a first step.

“The United States must also act against the entire political, military and security elite on the basis of human rights violations, drug trafficking and cooperation with terrorist organizations,” Fleischman said in a report

“Sanctions, freezing of assets”, and other pressures he stated.

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