Former vice president Tareck El Aissami became one of the most powerful figures in the Venezuelan government today as he becomes the new Minister of Oil. The announcement was published in the Gaceta Oficial N. 6,531 dated April 27 2020, which also announced the appointment of Asdrubal Chavez as the head of the state-owned PDVSA oil firm.
El Aissami has long been one of the most powerful figures in the Maduro regime. He served as governor of Aragua state from 2012 to 2017, and then as vice president until 2018. Since then, he was the Minister of Industry and National Production.
In 2017, the United States government accused El Aissami of being a “prominent” drug trafficker who heads a cocaine empire. According to the U.S Department of the Treasury, El Aissami oversaw a drug trafficking operation that involved an alliance with Mexican drug cartels:
[El Aissami] facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, as well as control of drug routes through the ports in Venezuela. In his previous positions, he oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States.
[El Aissami] also facilitated, coordinated, and protected other narcotics traffickers operating in Venezuela. Specifically, El Aissami received payment for the facilitation of drug shipments belonging to Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled Garcia. El Aissami also is linked to coordinating drug shipments to Los Zetas, a violent Mexican drug cartel, as well as providing protection to Colombian drug lord Daniel Barrera Barrera and Venezuelan drug trafficker Hermagoras Gonzalez Polanco.
El Aissami replaces Major General Manuel Quevedo, who had headed the ministry since 2017.
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