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Venezuela's vice president slams Washington's 'miserable, vile attack'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and Vice President Tareck El Aissami participate in a rally with the workers of state-owned PDVSA oil company in Caracas, Venezuela, January 31, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami has slammed Washington for imposing sanctions against him and a close ally over alleged mass shipment of illicit drugs into the United States.

"I take this miserable and vile attack as recognition of my status as an anti-imperialist revolutionary," Aissami said in a message posted on his official Twitter account on Tuesday.

The post came a day after the US Department of Treasury decided to sanction the Venezuelan vice president and his associate, Samark Jose Lopez Bello, ordering their assets frozen in the United States.

The allegation of drug trafficking against the two Venezuelans is the first such move against the socialist government of Venezuela by the administration of new US President Donald Trump.

Venezuela and the United States have had strained relations over the past years and Caracas has repeatedly accused Washington of using allegations of drug trafficking, corruption and human rights abuses as pretexts to interfere in the internal affairs of the South American country.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's narrow win in the 2013 elections allowed Washington to heap more pressure on Caracas as the former bus driver had less popularity compared to his mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Aissami, who is believed to be Maduro's heir apparent, said the sanctions were part of a broader US policy to undermine the Venezuelan government.

"Let's not let these vile provocations distract us. Our main job is to accompany Nicolas Maduro in (Venezuela's) economic recovery," Aissami said in the post, adding, "We must concentrate on the revolutionary government's priorities: economic recovery and growth and guaranteeing peace and social happiness."

Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami gestures during a rally with the workers of state-owned PDVSA oil company in Caracas, Venezuela, January 31, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Late on Monday, Lopez also blasted the sanctions and said the decision was in line with Washington's hostile policies toward the Venezuelan government.

"Mr. Lopez is not a government official and has not engaged in drug trafficking," said a statement posted on his website.

"Samark Lopez will seek all legal, administrative, and judicial remedies possible," the statement added, denying that Lopez had directly been involved in government affairs. He is just "a businessman who has known Tareck El Aissami for a number of years," it said.

Aissami has previously been accused by Venezuela's opposition of involvement in drug trafficking. The former lawmaker and state governor is of Syrian-Lebanese extraction and has served as vice president since last month.

Venezuela's government has yet to make an official statement on Washington's move.

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