A US Treasury official said that the department had observed a "worrying trend" in drug trafficking in Venezuela in the last two years, and that Henry Silva Rangel, now the country's defense minister, had called for closer government cooperation with the FARC rebel group.
Adam Szubin (see picture), director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), told El Universal that Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva, who the department designed as a narcotics traffickers in 2008, "has argued for better cooperation between the Venezuelan government and the FARC."
Rangel Silva was accused by OFAC of "materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities" of the Colombian rebel group. A top intelligence official at the time, he was sanctioned along with another intelligence official and the former interior minister for ties to the group. Another four government officials were designated in 2011.
The Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act targets individuals and businesses with suspected ties to international drug trafficking by freezing their US assets and barring US individuals and businesses from commercial ties with them.
Szubin assured the newspaper that "nobody enters OFAC's list by mistake."
InSight Crime Analysis
There have long been accusations of ties between the FARC and elements of the Venezeulan government and military. High-ranking members of the rebels' ruling Secretariat are thought to use the country as a refuge, as well as a source of weapons and medical care.
These accusations were bolstered earlier this year when President Hugo Chavez appointed Rangel, then a high ranking general, as defense minister, despite the accusations that he has helped the FARC to smuggle drugs. His appointment was likely part of efforts by an ailing Chavez to shore up political power. The ties between the two are strong; as military officers, they collaborated in a 1992 coup attempt.
However, since a rapprochement with the Colombian government in 2012, Venezuela has been working more closely with its neighbor to catch and deport members of the rebel group. In March 2012, Venezuelan authorities cooperated with Colombia to capture one of the group's founding members.