May 4, 2019
Tareck el Aissami, a close confidant of Hugo Chávez and Nicolas Maduro, who was indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges in March, played a key role in helping Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist group, gain ground in Latin America, reports The New York Times.
The news outlet cited a secret dossier compiled by Venezuelan intelligence agents of el Aissami’s corruption. The report comes days after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó publicly called for the military to back him to force Maduro from power, sparking protests and violence.
Maduro remained in power Thursday as the U.S. military was looking at “all options” regarding the unrest.
The United States views Maduro’s re-election last year as illegitimate and has recognized Guaido, the opposition leader of the National Assembly, as interim president.
The United States indicted former Venezuelan vice president El Aissami on sanctions violations in March, though he and Maduro have brushed off the charges as an attempt by the Trump administration to topple Venezuela’s leftist government.
The Times said Venezuela’s intelligence agency has warned of El Aissami’s corruption for more than a decade.
The Times also said informants told agents that el Aissami’s father, Carlos Zaidan el Aissami, was involved in a plan to train Hezbollah members in Venezuela, “with the aim of expanding intelligence networks throughout Latin America and at the same time working in drug trafficking.”