Venezuelan President Maduro Appoints U.S. Fugitive to Revamp Nation’s Oil Industry

edited April 2020 in The Corona Virus

(MIAMI) — President Nicoás Maduro on Monday named a powerful ally sanctioned by the U.S. as a drug kingpin, along with a cousin of the late socialist leader Hugo Chávez, to revamp Venezuela’s oil industry amid massive gasoline shortages.

Tareck El Aissami was appointed oil minister and Asdrúbal Chávez tapped to head of state-run oil giant PDVSA. The appointments were published in the official gazette. The government has yet to comment.

Both positions were occupied until now by Gen. Manuel Quevedo, who during his 28-month tenure watched as oil production in the country sitting atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves collapsed by 65%.

The shakeup comes amid crashing global oil prices and after two decades of plummeting crude production at Venezuela’s state-ruin oil firm equal to 19% of levels when the late President Chávez took power in 1999.

Venezuelans in recent weeks have experienced critical gasoline shortages even in the capital of Caracas, the seat of politics and concentration of wealth normally spared shortages across the nation.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently added El Aissami to its list of 10 most-wanted fugitives. He was sanctioned in 2017 as allegedly being a major drug trafficker and then was indicted two years later on allegations of violating those sanctions.

Despite having the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela’s political and social crisis continues to deepen, as the U.S. and a coalition of nearly 60 nations press Maduro to stand down.

Those nations recognize opposition politician Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president, arguing that Maduro’s election in 2018 was a sham because the most popular opposition candidates were banned from running.

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