CARACAS, Venezuela — Former Venezuelan Oil Minister Tarek Al Aissami announced his resignation amid a widespread, massive corruption scandal affecting the state oil company PDVSA.
The case revealed the theft of $3 billion from the sale of oil cargo involving the crypto system, which also led to the arrest of the head of the government’s official cryptocurrency system known as SUNACRIP.
Tarek Al Aissami, who decided in a rare move to resign to President Maduro giving way to an open wide investigation resulting in the arrest of other PDVSA authorities related to the trading department – just when it reported $21 billion in unpaid bills to PDVSA from sales via intermediaries from 2020 as a consequence of sanctions against PDVSA.
“Due to the investigations being carried out on grave accusations of corruption, I decided to present my resignation as minister of petroleum and backing and supporting all the investigations process on this,” said Aissami in a statement.
This new chapter is significant given the political and macroeconomic context of Venezuela. The country will hold presidential elections in 2024. Tarek Al Aissami was a crucial link between Iran and the country’s all-too-powerful Arab economic circle, which used his relationship to push multimillion-dollar agreements and businesses. It is also notable since Aissami is currently subject to U.S. government sanctions.
Meanwhile, this action could be a response to political disputes within the government and possibly a signal to Washington by the moderate faction within the Maduro circle in an effort to have US sanctions lifted following the recent issuance of a new license to CHEVRON to restart production in the country. This is because the country needs additional investments in its oil sector, which is still struggling to overcome significant obstacles, and because the economy is once again experiencing difficulties due to the currency crisis.
Tareck Aissami was a very powerful man within the government and his resignation may respond to a wide purge carried out by other factions in the Maduro faction as seeing him growing with power” said Francisco Monaldi, a Venezuelan oil expert at the University of Rice.
President Maduro named Pedro Telechea, recently named President of PDVSA, as the new Oil Minister holding both posts. Once more, Venezuela is dealing with a corruption scandal that will negatively affect its reputation at a time when it could have had a significant impact on the world’s oil markets. How Venezuela responds strategically will depend on whether it decides to maintain its close ties to Moscow, Iran, and Beijing or turn back to its long-standing former alliance with the US, which was once its natural market for Venezuelan oil exports.
Considering the current circumstances of global oil markets with Russia’s oil exports under sanctions and considering the geographic proximity of Venezuela to the US, the value of Venezuelan oil to US refiners and the current strained relations between Washington and its longstanding traditional ally in the Gulf, is something to take into account.
Overall, there are strong indications that Washington may have been behind this action to consider expanding its oil presence and deals in Venezuela at such a crucial time in the global oil markets, with prices still fluctuating. This is true regardless of the various theories floating around about the true motivations behind this action, considering his alleged close ties with Iran and his significant and deep influence within the large and wealthy Arab community.