Where is Tarek Al Asami? Venezuela’s all-powerful oil czar has been missing for nearly a year

Next March will mark one year since the PDVSA-Crypto scandal, the last fraud against the nation during the Chavismo era, which resulted in the defense of the Vice President of the Economic Sector and Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Terek El Assami. Nothing is known about the former absolutist Al Essami. or almost nothing. From time to time, opposition politicians and activists on social media wonder about her whereabouts and demand justice, criticizing the surprising official silence on her case. It is never known whether charges were brought against him. There is no news about his legal status. He has not testified or been re-examined. The Attorney General did not mention it again. This point is forgotten in PSUV. The revolutionary leadership avoids mentioning him personally. Al Asami seems to have been swallowed up by the earth.

A multi-million-dollar corruption scheme diverting Petróleos de Venezuela’s revenues during a time of international sanctions was dismantled – property losses estimated at more than 21,000 million dollars – and its members prosecuted, including key management officials. Governments like Pedro Maldonado, Hugbel Ro or Hugo Cabezas, with important responsibilities since the time of Hugo Chávez. In all, 40 bureaucrats, civil and military, some of great importance and power, all of them personally and politically very close to Al Asami, but fell into disrepute and fell.

According to close sources, Al Asami, a vegetarian, has lost more than ten kilos during this time. Some well-established journalistic versions have published information leaked from the depths of Chavismo and reported that El Essami is in a state of semi-residential confinement, a form of house arrest in one of the fortresses built in recent years for the ruling class. The most important military plaza in Caracas, in the area of ​​Conejo Blanco, in Fuerte Tuna. Moreover, before and after his public disappearance, there has been cyclical speculation about the health of Al Asami, a criminal lawyer who graduated from the University of Los Andes, the son of Syrian migrants from revolutionary Baathist nationalism.

Versions about cancer treatment, treatability and timely detection were circulating on social networks, affecting their performance at the end of 2022. The political leader himself denied this when he was in office. But now he could not deny them again. The silence is complete.

“Based on the investigation launched into serious acts of corruption in Petroleos de Venezuela, I have decided to submit my resignation as Minister of Petroleum in order to support, accompany and fully support this process,” El said. Aissami. In March 2023, in what was to be his last public statement, shortly before a series of arrests of those close to him began, in an investigation ordered by the presidential residence, Miraflores Palace.

It has since been commented that the reasons for Al Asami’s downfall may have been political. Although it is a source of controversy, this version is believed to be true by many knowledgeable people in Venezuela. Maduro himself, in one of his television broadcasts, once spoke, without naming him, of the existence of a group of people who were secretly working to replace him in power.

“I never believed that,” says consultant and political analyst Carmen Beatriz Fernandez, an academic at the University of Navarra and the University of Simón Bolívar. “I always felt that El Essami’s problem with Maduro had to do with money, with business. Maduro needs cash to face electoral challenges and El Asami didn’t know how to convince him, one piece was missing, a campaign without money is a slander. “That’s where I think things are going.”

When the PDVSA-Crypto case became public, several videos of Maduro’s television programs could be seen on social networks, in which, he impatiently called El Assami, in front of the rest of the cabinet, to inform him about the collection. PDVSA accounts, and state oil company cash flow progress.

“The Al Asami case is not easy to analyze, it has few visible elements. There is debate whether there is a power struggle, or if there is a difference with Maduro because the money was lost. It is a rather mysterious case, very opaque. The internal power structure in the Chavista government remains intact, for the rest,” comments Luis Salamanca, doctor of political science at the Central University of Venezuela.

In general terms, government ministers and deputies avoid talking about the Al Asami case. Occasionally, some of them have had to dodge questions with hints and sophistication. “I don’t know anything about Al Asami, I don’t know his whereabouts,” Jesús Faria, a deputy of Venezuela’s United Socialist Party, declared bluntly in an opinion program weeks ago. “Their possible prosecution is a task that rests with the prosecutor’s office and security agencies,” he added.

“It’s a case that shows how far factions of Chavismo can go in their internal conflict,” says consultant and political analyst Luis Pache Arteaga. “Two people died in this scandal trial, very little has been said about it. A very clear message has been sent to the rest of Chavismo about the primacy of Maduro’s leadership. A year ago there was talk of alternative leaders, of possible replacements, it all ended. Here. A clear message has been sent.

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