Venezuelan VP calls USA sanctions an 'attack'

The US government also issued sanctions against Samark Lopez, a Venezuelan businessman who is believed to be El Aissami's front man.

The US Department of the Treasury has claimed, among other things, that El Aissami has facilitated drug shipments from Venezuela to the United States and that he has received payments from drug lords.

The sanction marks a departure from the so-called "soft landing" approach taken by the Obama administration, which clashed on occasion with efforts by the US Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down on money laundering and drug trafficking by influential Venezuelan officials.

President Maduro frequently accuses the United States of trying to smear his administration, but U.S. officials have denied that designations had anything to do with Mr El Aissami's prominent political role.

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With the sanctions, El Aissami's US -based assets have been frozen and he is forbidden from entering the country. "Our main job is to accompany Nicolas Maduro in (Venezuela's) economic recovery", El Aissami tweeted.

Including a member of the Venezuelan government on the list of Treasury sanctions does not mean that the Venezuelan government is also being sanctioned, said the Treasury.

The US sanctions cast a dark shadow over El Aissami, 42, who became the troubled South American country's vice president on January 4. "El Aissami is the most senior Venezuelan official to ever be targeted by the U.S".

The humanitarian dimensions of the nation's crisis and its growing regional impact are spurring Venezuela's neighbors, including the United States, to be more active in pressing for a resolution of the country's deep political and economic woes, many regional experts say.

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More recently, a Brooklyn Federal District Court issued an indictment past year against Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol for allegedly taking bribes from drug traffickers during his tenure as head of the country's anti-narcotics agency.

"We must show Venezuelans that their fight is not in vain, that their actions are seen and that their cries are heard", she said.

He made a name for himself in Venezuela by cracking down on drug gangs.

Officials said they had frozen assets worth tens of millions of dollars, including a private jet and what appeared to be several luxury condos in Miami controlled by Lopez Bello.

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The companies make up an global network spanning the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Britain, the United States and Venezuela.