Nicolas Maduro has appointed Tareck El Aissami as the new oil minister in the midst of a fuel shortage and with Venezuelan oil prices at rock bottom.
El Aisammi, who is serving as economic vice-president, is one of the leaders accused by the United States of drug trafficking and is offering $10 million for his capture for being involved in money laundering and terrorism. The regime’s argument for his appointment is to “protect the industry against the aggression from outside and inside”. Through the Official Gazette of Venezuela, Maduro also made the appointment of Asdrubal Chavez, cousin of Hugo Chavez, as president of the state company Petroleos de Venezuela SA. (PDVSA) and its board of directors, in substitution of Manuel Quevedo, who was sanctioned last year by the United States for his relationship with Chavism.
The new man in charge of managing the much ruined Venezuelan oil company was previously in charge of Citgo, PDVSA’s most important US subsidiary, currently in dispute between the Maduro regime and the opposition. After declaring PDVSA an emergency, Maduro last February put El Aissami in charge of a commission to restructure the oil industry. This commission is also made up of Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino and Remigio Ceballos, the Armed Forces’ strategic operational commander, with the aim of “guaranteeing the security of all installations with a new plan”.
The South American country continues to live its worst economic and humanitarian crisis and since last Friday, the Venezuelan oil barrel is quoted at $9.98, the lowest figure in the last 22 years and a report that has only been compared to the prices of 1998, the year that Chaves came to power.