Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro announced on Twitter the appointment of Colonel Pedro Rafael Tellechea Ruíz as the new oil minister.
He replaces the recently resigned Tareck El Aissami, one of the regime’s most effective actors.
“It is already a military hegemony. This reorganization is intended to mitigate the noises generated recently by powerful economic groups within the regime,” said Daniel Varnagy, a political scientist at Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar University.
“It is a rotation of power by the ruling economic groups to ensure the regime’s continuity.”
In short, a military elite of individuals with enormous political power who have never been in operational positions is being consolidated and occupying the regime’s most important ministerial posts, the Venezuelan civilian organization Control Ciudadano (CC) told the press.
The appointment of the last three military ministers this year confirms CC’s assertion.
“Teamwork is a sure victory!” said Colonel Tellechea in his Twitter biography.
His appointment came amid an investigation into corruption and misuse of funds in the Venezuelan oil industry.
Colonel Tellechea is also president of state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
The appointment increases the military’s share of the Maduro regime’s Cabinet of Ministers by 42%, CC reported, with six people from the army, three from the navy, three from the National Guard, and two from the air force.
Reuters reported that after resorting to dozens of little-known intermediaries to export its oil under US sanctions three years ago, PDVSA had amassed US$21.2 billion in claims.
El Aissami’s resignation, which he announced via Twitter to aid the corruption investigation, came shortly after his right-hand man and other allies were arrested on corruption charges, suggesting a political power play rather than a genuine attempt to root out corruption, according to InSight Crime.
This organization investigates organized crime in Latin America.
El Aissami is among the drug traffickers most wanted by the United States.
Everything indicates “a political confrontation between very powerful elements of the Maduro leadership.”
“El Aissami would have used PDVSA’s resources to strengthen its broad structure, which includes governors, judges, deputies, and military officers,” Rafael Ramírez, a former minister under Hugo Chávez, told Argentine news site Infobae.
“High-level corruption and links to organized crime are commonplace in Venezuela but an inherent feature of the Maduro regime,” Vanargy said.
“The idea is to reduce international pressure, which meets that goal.”
OPEN MORE DOORS
“Due to the new ministerial appointment, Venezuela could open more doors to Russia, Iran, and China for military, technological, and cultural developments,” Varnagy said.
“Since the beginning of the Bolivarian project, Venezuela has been associated with authoritarian empires.”
In addition, he said they hope Caracas will provide “relief from economic sanctions” imposed by the United States.
While Iran and Russia are increasing their energy cooperation with PDVSA to boost oil production, China receives millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil as compensation for Caracas’ debt.
Venezuelan territory also represents an important interest for these countries, not only because of its natural resources but also because of its proximity to the United States, Canada, and some Latin American countries, Varnagy added.
Brazil’s Instituto Humanistas Unisinos (Unisinos Humanist Institute) said in a report that the Beijing-Moscow-Tehran axis seeks to expand its influence and build a wide range of relations with Latin America through economic, political, and cultural ties.
Venezuela’s role has been crucial as a gateway for these nations seeking to reshape the international order to create a world conducive to their autocracy, the German news agency “Deutsche Welle” (DW) reported.
According to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, an Iranian delegation led by Oil Minister Javad Owji arrived in Caracas on April 11 to tour PDVSA’s facilities and strengthen energy ties.
However, according to Varnagy, “there is great hope in countries less allied with Venezuela, such as Iran, China, and Russia, to avoid the [military, political, economic and cultural] actions of these countries in the Western Hemisphere.”
“Most countries in Latin America “have a very rooted Western culture […]. They are the great allies of the values of democracy and freedom and faithful followers of Western culture and education,” he added.
“Politics is a pendulum, but culture is a pyramid. It is much easier to move the pendulum than a pyramid,” Varnagy concluded.
“That’s why Latin American countries must continue to counterbalance Western culture and education.”
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