What exactly is the government trying to signal through Aragua Governor Tareck El-Aissami’s extremely high profile over the last few days? In the space of a week, he went from announcing a major security operation on the Colombian border to making a new batch of paranoid-schizophrenic allegations of opposition murder plots. 

Why him? Technically, Tareck is nothing more than the governor of a mid-sized, hyper-violent, once-upon-a-time Industrial state a couple of hours west of Caracas.

Other than hosting the country’s hardest-partying prison and some of its most out-of-control gangsters, there isn’t much to recommend Aragua as a power base…and certainly no reason why its governor should come to act as, well as what, exactly? A kind of combination interior-minister/defense-minister/foreign-minister/president, actually, with special powers over places hundreds of kilometers away.

So why? Is it just that the real Interior Minister, González López, is so catastrophically unpresentable they don’t dare to put him before the cameras? But then, when has chavismo ever worried about looking outright insane on TV?

No, I don’t think it’s that. I don’t think it’s because he’s being groomed for higher office, either. He used to have higher office – he is a former Interior Minister, after all. If that was the play, they’d just reappoint him to that role.

I don’t think that’s it. I think he already has the job he wants: controlling the mind-blowingly profitable traffic in contraband in both direction between Venezuela and Colombia.

The message isn’t being sent to you and me. The message is being sent to anyone who might get it into his head to try to make a grab for those trafficking routes.

And trust me, the people he intended to send that message to are hearing it loud and clear.

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