Venezuela has become a global symbol of socialist failure, but one thing its government knows how to do is hang on to power. This week the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela began maneuvering to survive a recall election this year by appointing a new vice president.
President Nicolás Maduro is likely to lose a recall that the opposition has been demanding amid runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods, widespread hunger and rampant crime. But under the constitution, new vice president Tareck El Aissami, whom Mr. Maduro appointed Wednesday, would serve out the presidential term through 2019. This means the political opposition will now have to decide which tyrant they’d prefer to live under.
The 42-year-old El Aissami is what Donald Trump would call a “bad hombre.” During his university days he belonged to the left-wing student movement Utopia 78 and in 2002 he was elected to congress as a follower of the late demagogue Hugo Chávez. From 2008 to 2012 he was minister of the interior, where he controlled immigration. A June 2014 paper from the Washington-based Center for a Secure Free Society cites allegations by “regional intelligence officials” that Mr. El Aissami’s office provided passports and national ID cards to suspected Islamic terrorists. The Venezuelan government dismissed the reports as U.S. propaganda.
Most recently Mr. El Aissami has been governor of the state of Aragua. Our Mary Anastasia O’Grady reported in 2014 that Parchin Chemical Industries and Qods Aviation, companies owned by the Iranian military, had joint ventures in Aragua state with the Venezuelan military. Both companies were sanctioned by the United Nations under Security Council Resolution 1747. In May 2015 The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Justice Department was investigating Mr. El Aissami.
The tragedy is that a recall defeat last year for Mr. Maduro would have triggered a new election. The government refused to hold a recall, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t press for it as he lobbied for a Maduro “dialogue” with the opposition. Add the ascendancy of Mr. El Aissami, and the perpetuation of Venezuelan suffering, to Mr. Kerry’s legacy.
WJS Jan. 6, 2017 7:12 p.m. ET