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Maduro Promotes Wanted Hezbollah ‘Bagman’ to Venezuela Oil Minister

Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro appointed senior official Tareck El Aissami – wanted by ICE for drug trafficking and widely believed to be Maduro’s primary link to Hezbollah – the country’s oil minister on Monday.

El Aissami – who has served in a wide variety of cabinet-level positions, including vice president – was previously in the position of Minister of Industries and National Production, which gave him power over Venezuela’s oil production, but also key natural resources such as gold. Illegal gold mining enabled by the illegitimate Maduro regime has empowered violent gangs in the country and caused an environmental disaster.

Now, El Aissami will be tasked with saving what is left of the formerly lucrative Venezuelan oil industry after two decades of catastrophic socialist mismanagement, exacerbated by the collapse in oil prices triggered by global lockdowns to combat the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. It is not clear what will happen with his former office, if someone will be appointed to succeed him or if it will be integrated into the bureaucracy of his new position.

Organized crime experts have signaled El Aissami out for years as an associate of the Iranian-Lebanese jihadist outfit Hezbollah. While not considered a jihadist operator, El Aissami is believed to be a major fundraiser and recruiter for the organization, one of the most important in Latin America.

El Aissami generates those funds through drug trafficking, according to the United States government. The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned El Aissami under the “Drug Kingpin Act” in 2017 for “playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.” Among his jobs, the Treasury claimed 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 July, ICE put out a wanted alert for El Aissami repeating several of these accusations.
“He facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that left from a Venezuelan air base and drug routes through the ports in Venezuela,” ICE stated. “In his previous positions, he oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States.”
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