(JTA) — Venezuelan far-left President Nicolas Maduro tapped for his new vice president former minister Tareck El Aissami, who has been accused of anti-Semitism and ties to Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah.
The appointment was announced last week, according to reports, including the Miami Herald.
El Aissami is a known entity in the world of U.S. intelligence. He is allegedly a part of Venezuela’s state drug-trafficking network and has ties to Iran, Syria, and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. If Maduro is ousted, as his opposition is calling for, El Aissami will take the helm of the South American nation.
“Not only implicated in drug trafficking and relations with the Colombian terrorist FARC movement, El-Aissami has inherited Chavez’ hatred of Israel and Jews and can now pursue Maduro’s anti-Semitism, further threatening Jewish lives in Venezuela,” declared the Wiesenthal Center’s representative in Latin America, Ariel Gelblung, on Friday.
“Indeed El-Aissami may transform anti-Semitism into state policy and further the transplantation of the Middle East conflict to South America,” Gelblung added.
Maduro is the heir of late leader Hugo Chavez, whose socialist regime had ties to hard-line Islamists.
Between 2007 and 2010, there was a flight between Venezuela and Iran with a stop in Syria. Chavez and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly called it “Aeroterror,” reported Brazil’s influential Veja magazine. Only government officials with a special clearance were permitted to fly on it, and there were often very few passengers. The flights mostly carried drugs, weapons, cash and terrorists, added Veja, citing U.S. government testimony.
When he was interior minister under Chavez, El Aissami participated in a clandestine program to provide Venezuelan passports to terrorists in Damascus, added Veja in an article published in 2015. The Wall Street Journal expanded on the topic two months later, accusing government ministers, including El Aissami, of turning Venezuela into a global cocaine hub.
“One part master of Middle-Eastern networking, one part honorary Cuban revolutionary, and one part highly ambitious chavista, Mr. El Aissami is a dream come true for Tehran and Havana. That makes him a powerful man in Venezuela,” the Journal reported
“Vice President Tareq El-Aissami, though presented as a Druze, is closely identified with Shiite Iran, the Hezbollah terrorist organization and Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s family, whom he apparently hosted in Caracas,” added Simon Wiesenthal Center director Shimon Samuels.
“Aissami’s name has appeared as an intermediary between Iran and Argentina in the plan to camouflage Teheran’s complicity in the 1994 Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish Center bombing, which killed 85 and maimed over 300. His new appointment assures Iran of continued access for terrorist mayhem across Latin America,” said Samuels.