A former government minister in Venezuela who has been accused of anti-Semitism and ties to Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah was tapped as the South American country's vice president.
The appointment of Tareck El Aissami by President Nicolas Maduro was announced last week, according to reports, including the Miami Herald.
El Aissami, reportedly a known entity by U.S. intelligence, allegedly is a part of Venezuela's state drug-trafficking network and has ties to Iran, Syria and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. The opposition is calling for the ouster of the far-left Maduro, which would put El Aissami at the helm.
“Not only implicated in drug trafficking and relations with the Colombian terrorist FARC movement, El Aissami has inherited Chavez’s hatred of Israel and Jews and can now pursue Maduro’s anti-Semitism, further threatening Jewish lives in Venezuela," the Wiesenthal Center's representative in Latin America, Ariel Gelblung, said Friday, referring to the late President Hugo Chavez.
"Indeed, El Aissami may transform anti-Semitism into state policy and further the transplantation of the Middle East conflict to South America."
Maduro succeeded Chavez, whose socialist regime had ties to hard-line Islamists.
As interior minister under Chavez, El Aissami reportedly participated in a clandestine program to provide Venezuelan passports to terrorists in Damascus, Veja reported in an article published in 2015. Two months later The Wall Street Journal accused 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.
Simon Wiesenthal Center director Shimon Samuels said that although El Aissami is "presented as a Druze," he is "closely identified with Shiite Iran, the Hezbollah terrorist organization and Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s family, whom he apparently hosted in Caracas."
Samuels said Aissami’s name has appeared as an intermediary between Iran and Argentina in the plan to camouflage Tehran’s complicity in the 1994 Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish Center bombing, which killed 85 and injured 300. No one has been brought to justice for the bombing.
"His new appointment assures Iran of continued access for terrorist mayhem across Latin America,” he said.