Corruption in PDVSA Makes Chavismo Tremble in Pre-Electoral Times
The corruption scandal in PDVSA that affects Tareck El Aissami can put the stability of the Government of Nicolás Maduro at risk.
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
Listen to this article
Leer en español: Corrupción en PDVSA pone a temblar al chavismo en época preelectoral
One of the strong men of Chavismo had to resign after a corruption scandal of stratospheric levels was uncovered. Tareck El Aissami served as Minister of Oil and the strongman of the state oil company PDVSA. But the case not only has repercussions for the former official, but this earthquake may also have short and medium-term aftershocks.
Who is Tareck El Aissami?
El Aissami was the oil minister until Monday, a position he had held for almost four years. His past in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela had not given him the relevance he acquired when he began to be in charge of international politics. The 48-year-old politician came to the national stage when in 2008, he was appointed Minister of International Relations and Justice in the Government of Hugo Chávez.
You can also read: Iran and Saudi Arabia restore relations: end of terrorism in the region?
With the arrival of Nicolás Maduro to the presidency, El Aissami did not lose prominence. On the contrary, the man of Syrian descent also became executive vice president, then minister of Industry and National Production, and, until Monday, minister of Oil.
El Aissami has also entered into investigations by the United States against members of the Venezuelan ruling party. The man born in El Vigía was accused of drug trafficking in 2019 in a Federal Court in Manhattan and has been the target of sanctions by the US Government.
What Happened at PDVSA?
The national anti-corruption police asked to open several processes against state oil company officials. As known by the Public Ministry, "the illegal investigations correspond to different branches and levels of public power and involve strategic sectors for national development and the administration of justice."
According to the authorities, those investigated would be involved in the disappearance of 3,000 million dollars from the sale of PDVSA crude. Among the detainees are Joselit Ramírez, National Superintendent of Cryptoactives and Related Activities; Antonio Pérez Suárez, Vice President of Commerce and Quality Supply of PDVSA; Samuel Testamarck, general manager of PDV Marina; and the deputy of the PSUV Hugbel Roa.
This serious fact has generated an internal war and a purge within Chavismo. What many people have criticized for years today is having its first consequence: deep corruption, which is one of the leading causes of the economic crisis in Venezuela.
Apparently, according to the Chavista media, the method by which those billions of dollars were stolen was through the official Venezuelan cryptocurrency: the Petro. The digital medium that the Maduro government sought to solve hyperinflation in 2018 was used to make money from the PDVSA oil company disappear. Between October and November, the state company (the largest in the country) sold 120 million barrels (valued between 3,000 and 5,000 million dollars) through cryptocurrencies and thus avoided the sanctions imposed by Washington. Today, digital money does not appear, nor is it registered.
For this reason, the Government has supported the investigation. It promises to help it no matter who falls, regardless of whether he is one of the men already accused or the powerful former oil minister. But the opposition denounces that if the Government accepts embezzlement of 3,000 million dollars, the reality may be much higher.
A Scandal in the Run-Up to Presidential Elections
Suppose it is true that the next presidential elections in Venezuela will only take place until 2024. In that case, the panorama in the opposition is already beginning to move. This fact can strengthen the candidacy that competes with President Nicolás Maduro. The president saw a favorable outlook with the improvement in the country's economy in recent years. With a much friendlier international environment, he may have in this corruption scandal the speech against that the opposition was looking for so much.