Venezuelan Petroleum Minister Resigns Amid Anti-Corruption Sweep

Tarek El Aissami Steps Down as Authorities Investigate $3 Billion Misappropriation in PdVSA

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Tarek El Aissami, Minister of Petroleum and an influential figure in the Venezuelan government, announced his resignation yesterday, Monday, amid an anti-corruption operation by the authorities in which close associates, among others, have been arrested.

“Because of the investigations that have begun to be carried out into serious cases of corruption in PdVSA (the public oil company), I have taken the decision to submit my resignation as Minister of Petroleum to fully support, accompany and strengthen this process,” El Aissami said via Twitter.

The police announced last week that they had begun investigating alleged misappropriation of $3 billion in funds. At least six public officials were taken into custody, three of whom, according to the press, are individuals linked to Mr. El Aishami.

“I have decided to accept the resignation to facilitate the investigations that must result in establishing the truth and punishing those responsible,” President Nicolás Maduro said during a political event.

Tarek El Aissami, who is subject to US sanctions, is considered one of the most powerful figures of “chauvinism” and the Socialist Party, which exercises power in Venezuela. He has served as the country’s vice president (2017-2018), Minister of Interior and Justice, Minister of Industry…

According to the newspaper Ultimas Noticias, considered close to the government, $3 billion was lost in 2022 during an attempt to sell oil using cryptocurrencies to circumvent US sanctions.

Since 2017, the oil sector in Venezuela has been the subject of more than 25 corruption investigations, leading to the arrests of dozens of PdVSA workers and two former oil ministers , Eulochio del Pino and Nelson Martinez. The latter died while in custody.

Another former oil minister and one-time confidant of the late former President Hugo Chavez, Rafael Ramirez, is also accused of abuse by the Venezuelan authorities, who are seeking – to no avail to date – his extradition from Italy, where he fled.

“We will completely cleanse the PdVSA of all these mechanisms, of all such barbarism, of all those who steal the people’s money, with draconian measures to restructure it at the top level, which we have already begun,” socialist President Maduro promised.

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