Emili Blasco, author of Boomerang Chavez: The Fraud That Led to Venezuela’s Collapse, reports that Nicolás Maduro’s new vice-president is none other than Tarek El Aissami, who, as you may recall has been tied to the Cartel of the Suns and to Islamic networks. El Aissmi was a key figure as Hugo Chávez allowed Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda to use Venezuela as a bridge to other Latin American countries.
Blasco asserts that El Aissami’s ascension blows the pretense of dialogue with the opposition (link in Spanish), and that
“El cambio sitúa a El Aissami como número dos del Gobierno, restando poder a Diosdado Cabello, quien, aunque fuera del Ejecutivo, se venía considerando como el segundo hombre fuerte del chavismo.”
[my translation: The change places El Aissami as number two in the government, subtracting power from Diosdado Cabello, who, even not in the Executive branch, was regarded as chavismo’s second strongman.]
There’s also the issue of succession, as the country becomes more unstable,
“Con este nombramiento, el exministro de Justicia e Interior y hasta ahora gobernador de Aragua se coloca en excelente posición para la sucesión de Maduro en el caso de que en el chavismo se produjera un relevo. Si debido a la crisis económica y humanitaria de Venezuela, Maduro se viera forzado a dejar el poder, su vicepresidente le sustituiría hasta las elecciones presidenciales de finales de 2018.”
[my translation: With this nomination, the former Minister of Justice and Interior and current governor of Aragua is in an excellent position as Maduro’s successor would chavismo need an heir. If Maduro was forced to leave office due to Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis, his vice-president would serve until the 2018 presidential elections.]
The WSJ explains:
The governor takes the vice presidency amid a push by the opposition to oust Mr. Maduro through a recall referendum, which polls show the highly unpopular president would likely lose if it were to take place.
Mr. El Aissami would assume the presidency if a referendum takes place and Mr. Maduro were to lose, although the proposed vote is tied up in courts amid government allegations that the opposition used fraudulent signatures in its petition.
El Aissami is not the only cabinet member who the U.S. is investigating on drug charges. Hugo’s brother, Adán Chávez, was named Minister of Culture, and Néstor Reverol, the current interior minister, last year was indicted on drug-smuggling charges by the U.S., highlighting, in Blasco’s opinion, Venezuela’s emergence as a narcostate.
Essential listening on El Aissami (h/t The Tower):
— John Batchelor (@batchelorshow) January 6, 2017
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2014 that while El Aissami was its governor, Aragua was home to the explosives company Parchin Chemical Industries and the drone-makers Qods Aviation, two companies owned by Iran’s military and sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council for their involvement in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
After Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Venezuela last August, Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, speculated that one of the reasons for the trip was to shore up Iran’s ballistic missile program. Ottolenghi cited a recently-discovered contract between the two countries to jointly produce solid rocket fuel.
From Nov. 2014: The Iran-Cuba-Venezuela NexusThe West underestimates the growing threat from radical Islam in the Americas.
From August 2016: [Iran’s foreign minister] Zarif Leveraging Latin America Trip to Boost Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program
Cross-posted at WoW! Magazine.