The heat was intense as food vendors crowded around the main entrance to the exhibition hall at the 2013 Expo Aragua. It was held at the San Jacinto fairgrounds, in eastern Maracay; a marching band was played a lively rendition of “Patria, Patria Querida” while a group of teenage dancers swayed along the music. Meanwhile, we, the journalists, were trying to figure out the best spot to find someone to interview.

It was my first day on the street as an intern for one of Aragua’s leading newspapers, and also the first time I saw Tareck El-Aissami, who has just been named Vice-president, in person.

I recognized one guy in our crew from university: a die-hard chavista I’d once debated about PSUV’s decision to impose some gocho from Mérida as their candidate for our governorship.

“Why they didn’t go for Pedro Bastidas?” I remember asking him. He grumbled something about him not being ready.

They needed someone they could trust. A loyalist, to protect a key stronghold bordering Caracas and full to the brim with military bases. Gómez knew it and Chávez knew it.

“Are you going to tell me that from over half a million chavista voters in the state not one is good enough to be governor?”

Now, looking back, I see they needed someone they could trust. A loyalist, to protect a key stronghold bordering Caracas and full to the brim with military bases. Gómez knew it and Chávez knew it. I suspect he probably wasn’t too pleased being demoted from the powerful Interior Minister’s office in Caracas to some crappy fief in el interior. But someone had to clean the mess left by Rafael Isea, a shady and corrupt former Finance minister —pardon the redundancy— with very few friends around and fewer by the minute — the DEA being one late exception. Let’s put it this way: Isea is the only aragueño in history who could have managed to make former governor Didalco Bolívar look good.

Walking around Expo Aragua, there was something strange in the relationship between private and public sectors among the exhibitors. You had stalls for public institutions and municipalities sharing space with stalls for pretty much any important private enterprise left in Aragua. From Ron Santa Teresa to artisanal chocolate made by the Aldeas Universitarias. Chavismo, I thought, had always prided itself not needing the private sector!

Tareck is the kind of guy who’d rather quietly get his cronies to buy up dissident TV stations and install his own people in the newsroom than take it over by force or shut it down outright.

Little by little, I grasped my fellow aragüeños see Tareck as neither your red-blooded olive green-clad hijo-de-Bolívar military fanboy nor your head-up-his-ass Marxist-Leninist Patria-o-Muerte apparatchik. In Aragua he pitched himself as a pragmatist, a manager, a broker. He loved to put together events like Expo Aragua to get together for current and future business partners, to move and shake and broker deals.

Tareck is the kind of guy who’d rather quietly get his cronies to buy up dissident TV stations and install his own people in the newsroom than take it over by force or shut it down outright. His idea of socialism includes taking over a profitable professional baseball team on behalf of el pueblo, giving the concession toof a historical hotel to an international enterprise, holding a decadent, tacky memoria y cuenta gala over the usual bureaucratic humdrum in such events. My impression is that he’s a boliburgués at heart, just a shrewd and ambitious one who bends over backwards to be completely faithful of the revolution’s line, whatever that may be.

Despite his best attempt to appeal to your average aragüeño, there’s a certain staginess in gestures like this that screams out “phony!” While I was in line at the bank recently an old man told me a joke: “Tareck goes to the Tigres de Aragua stadium for the season opener and finds the lights are off and nobody is there. He looks around, sees a guachimán and ask him “where is everyone?”, the guachimán rolls his eyes and tells ‘this is the soccer stadium! The baseball stadium is next door!'”.

Nobody around here will deny he’s a capable administrator (compared to Isea, at least) and through it all he’s won over a few hearts.

“At first I didn’t trust him, being from Mérida and all” told me a very rojo rojito construction foreman “but his work speaks for itself.” He says, pointing out the extensive restoration of historical buildings in downtown Maracay and the TransAragua, the new shiny mass transit system made from shiny mass-produced red Chinese buses.

“He only cares about a couple of blocks in Maracay, you don’t see any kind of government here.” a colleague living in Turmero tells me and that’s just down the road from Maracay! Going to the center and south of Aragua, to Tocorón and the former dominions of El Picture shows that Tareck’s red glamour is nothing more than good marketing. The guy had a plan to leverage an image of Aragua as “the model state” for the Bolivarian revolution into a higher position — and that’s now panned out for him, I guess.

There’s long been chatter that some of his money comes from drugs.

When I finally saw him, surrounded by ministers and VP Jorge Arreaza (hey, remember him?) he struck me as…underwhelming. He doesn’t exactly exhude alpha male charisma, you could easily picture him as just another anonymous middle-class Venezuelan of Middle-Eastern heritage.

“He’s a cipher,” one of the journalists from the newsroom told me, in confidence. There was some discontent about him, peddling influence to get unfavorable news hushed up. The owners of the newspaper are in no position to resist a guy like Tareck.

There’s long been chatter that some of his money comes from drugs, that drugs profits are fueling all the construction projects in Maracay and who knows what else across the state, and we know that the DEA has him under investigation. Maybe I’m naïve: when I see a fancy restaurant opening up in Las Delicias I don’t immediately think “money-laundering”, but, amid the financial crisis, it does make you stop for a moment and ask “where does the money comes from?”

Hmmm. Maybe Aragua is the model state of the Bolivarian revolution after all.

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Wannabe writer, freelance journalist, college professor, political junkie, bibliophile, cinephile, semi-professional dilettante. José is locked in a constant battle to manage his time for all the things he's passionate about.

20 COMMENTS

  1. It seems that, amid so much utter mind-boggling incompetence, T might actually seem better than many. It’s probable, however, apart from his Guinness-setting record jalabola adulation of NM at his televised VP-naming ceremony, that he was named for being known/loyal to the Cuban puppet masters, plus supposedly being tough on crime, not to mention having a large rabo de paja (narcotics/Iran), which might keep him from being able to sell out the “Revolution”, if and when push comes to shove….

    • All the above the arguments make sense accept for his stance on crime. Aragua state is arguably one of the most dangerous states in the country crime-wise. Just leaving home in the morning is playing Russian roulette, not to mention the probability of break-ins and residential buildings being assaulted. Not even in your own home.

  2. This excellent piece, as well as the one on San Juan de los Morros, would have been still better with more careful proofreading.

  3. ” I grasped my fellow aragüeños see Tareck as neither your red-blooded olive green-clad hijo-de-Bolívar military fanboy nor your head-up-his-ass Marxist-Leninist Patria-o-Muerte apparatchik. In Aragua he pitched himself as a pragmatist, a manager, a broker.”

    ** He’s even worse, he’s a hardcore yihadist and big scale drug kingpin, he’s the owner of the ton-and-half of drugs that were found on an Air France plane some time ago, this was told me by a person who works in customs.

    http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/noticias/decomisan-cocaina-en-avion-de-air-france-provenien.aspx

    http://noticiaaldia.com/2013/09/nueve-detenidos-en-francia-y-venezuela-por-embarque-de-droga-en-avion-de-air-france/

    ** Also, ALL the arrested people from that incident were scapegoats too, the actual culprits are laughing their asses off (After charming tarek punched some of their teeth off their mouths, because the guy’s prone to rage fits like a ‘roid monster)

    His twitter account was erased once because he kept threatening people through direct messages, specially those threatening rape and murder to women that dared to say something that didn’t please him:

    http://noticiaaldia.com/2014/10/suspenden-cuenta-en-twitter-del-gobernador-de-aragua-tareck-el-aissami/

    ** He’s also ANOTHER of the bastards that constantly protects and instigates the open violence against every non-chavista in Venezuela:

    http://www.maduradas.com/si-claro-el-aissami-nunca-una-marcha-chavista-ha-generado-violencia-video/

    ** You want some other tiny tidbit to shatter all your charm for the guy? Here it is:

    http://www.2001.com.ve/con-la-gente/tareck-el-aissami–mientras-el-pueblo-es-mas-pobre-es-mas-leal-al-proyecto-revolucionario.html

    http://reporteconfidencial.info/noticia/3225020/video-tareck-el-aissami-mientras-el-pueblo-es-mas-pobre-es-mas-leal-a-la-revolucion/

    ** It’s kinda insulting to see so many people falling for that “pragmatist charm” thing, or is that “pragmatist” is now an euphemism to define a “person that’s an utter piece of manure” (to avoid the other word)?

    Ah, did I mention this POS is a damn TERRORIST?

    https://resistenciav58.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/alerta-identificado-terrorista-tareck-el-aissami-protege-a-terroristas-en-el-edo-aragua-%E2%96%BA/

    http://www.maduradas.com/alo-tareck-venezuela-el-principal-nexo-de-hezbollah-en-america/

    http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/mundo/america-latina/venezuela-es/article2045856.html

    But, hey, as long as the zealots don’t pull you off a bus and shoot you in the middle of the street at midday or slit your wife/mother/daughter’s throat for being infidels, it should be ok, right?

    But hey, PRAGMATISM, right?

    • He’s a hardcore yihadist? I assume you mean jihadist.

      he’s most assuredly not a jihadist. Are you saying that because he’s Arabic?

      The Druze (his ancestral people) have been targeted by jihadists for awhile, ISIS slaughtered a bunch.

      • More because both his father and uncle occupied positions of some merit in the Syrian BAATH party.

        Uncle was the Baath “rep” to latin america, father less so but still involved.

        Tareck is known for obtaining Venezuelan citizenship for folks from Lebanon and Syria that need a new set of papers.

      • Yeah, yeah, so called “differences” that are nothing but excuses to extert political control and getting rid of anybody that gets in the way, the same “we’re good, they’re bad” thing that’s been so commonly attributed to western people.

        Because it’s not like we haven’t seen any example of atrocious discrimination against a population just for political purposes here in Venezuela, no sire.

        The guy’s garbage, and he’s bringing and hiding terrorists to Venezuela by forging them id documents, specially hypocritical and insulting when venezuelans themselves can’t get even a stupid passport in less than 6 months and without having to hand out a bribe.

        Also, terrorism against “non-muslims” = jihad, they already want all of us dead just for not being under their dominion.

  4. Aristobulo could get along with Ramos Allup when he became the AN boss and Maduro feared what they might be able to do …now that he has fraudently used his ‘institutional’ powers to paint the AN into a corner and is entering into a more difficult stage in the war against the oppo , he needs someone different as VP …some one with better looks and a more militant image , someone whose proven himself ruthless and loyal , someone who knowing that he is likely under investigation by US agencies is sure to feel he has a bit of his own skin a risk and is thus strongly motivated to maintain the regime in power for as long as possible if not indefenitely….!!

    • Indeed. When your name is on the DEA list, there’s no place to hide outside of Venezuela so it’s wise not to let things get too uncomfortable inside the country.

  5. Yeah. And we put our trust in… Borges, the cellophane man, the one man who has an army of propagandists trying to convince you that being completely unremarkable and boring is the same as being sober, and that being sober is the same as being really really smart. Because obviously that is what we need in these times…El diente roto, pues. So much mediocrity and cowardice makes my head hurts. Are we really THAT decadent and worthless? Because let me tell you, Chavismo knows what it is doing and is crushing us.The only man who was shown any degree of courage, real understanding and integrity is LL, and he is being backstabbed over and over by this army of impotent dim witted men. The same with Maria Corina and Diego Arria. They should be the leaders, they should be calling the shots; not because they are perfect and unfallible, but because they have shown audicity and compromise.Everyone who stands out in this vast sea of mediocrity that is killing us, gets to be isolated, and attacked.

      • Yes, the kind of troll who is very annoyting because he is completely right. And we are thriving these days. Who knows why? Maybe is the complete mediocrity that surrounds us while the country is dying. So I would rather be called a troll, than be an idiot, defending Borges, one of the persons most responsible for our current situation. The genius Borges, as you would call him. How many times will you fail before you hear us the ugly trolls who have been caling you wrong since 2014. You disgust me.

  6. Tarek reminds me of Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s vice president and hatchet man. Agnew was so despised (yet popular at the same time…uh?) that Nixon said that he was his best insurance against assassination…”No assassin in his right mind would kill me. They know if they did that they would wind up with Agnew!”

    Outside the issue of Aristobulo not following the “party line”, Tarek will be a lot worst than Maduro as President. That is of course assuming that there will be ever a recall referendum or even any kind of election sometime this year. Hence Maduro bought another insurance policy to stay in power.

    • “Oh, look, chavismo can be even worse than what it is now! Scary! Scary! There comes the boogeyman!”

      Jeez, how many times has people fallen for that fallacy, believing that chavismo isn’t currently doing its worst to destroy the country, as if the 30.000 murders from 2016 weren’t enough indication.

      • I guess I did not explained myself well. My point here is not any specific or short term damage they continue to produce by any given boogeyman (Ulamog dixit) but rather their approach to extend this run as far as possible.

        Dude we haven’t seen the worst yet…Look at the Castros unchecked tyranny running towards its 60 years anniversary. Gadaffi pulled 34 years and Pinochet managed a meager 17 years.

        Long term is the boogeyman and Maduro just dodged a very significant bullet in 2016. We did not managed to pull him off the edge with lots of things in our favor. Now, he is getting entrenched and cohesive while the MUD is still trying to find the meat in the salami.

        • Venezuela is in worse conditions than those countries you mentioned, WAY worse, and it begun way before Maduro and Cabello took power.

          How is Venezuela in worse conditions than those countries? Well, for starters, serial killers, drug kingpins, muggers and all sorts of criminals weren’t slaughtering thousands of people every year, did you know that every “malandro” outside the regime’s official payroll was executed or at least imprisoned for their crime? And that happened in the three places you mentioned, while in Venezuela, well, there’re slaughters like the one of the miners and it’s just another footnote in a newspage.

          Yes, boogeyman, the supossed boogeyman that will come and order to slaughter what, hundreds of thousands or even MILLIONS in a “revolutionary purgue”? Stop believing that scare-story, because that’s the thing criminals like capodado has used to try to threaten people into not ousting the regime, saying implicitly “If I get the coroto then I’ll order the colectivos to kill all the escuálidos in Venezuela, mwahahahaha!”

          Ah, you know what else there is in those three countries? There was FOOD and there was MEDICINES, in scarce and rationed doses, but the perraje had access to those, so, again, HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE EATING FROM GARBAGE TODAY IN VENEZUELA AGAIN?

          PS: Forget the “Venezuela’s destiny is sealed with 50 years of cuban tyranny” because you know that’s bullshit, if the country doesn’t explode tomorrow it MIGHT do it the next week, or the next time maduro OR ANY chavista head screws it again.

  7. Its very difficult to win a game of dice when the guy on the other side , plays with loaded dice, even if your are a good player……., so to criticize the honest player for not winning doenst entitle us to belittle his intentions and talents , its what happens when your are forced to play games with a crook who has thru fraud and intimidation taken control of the dice. You can kick the table and stop the game if your rival isnt a gangster with a kniife in his pocket so the options open to you arent easy ……, you cant hold such honest player to the standards of success of people who play an ordinary game ,

    I do believe the game is winnable but dont expect the honest player to be succesful in every movement he makes , we have to cut him more slack than that ……still one good thing about the man is that if the notorious trolls in the blog attack him its a good sign that he is the man they fear and the one that most deserves our support ….so lets stand by him and see him through in the next stages of the game , he has a lot on his shoulders !!

  8. If the “trolls” attack him, maybe they are right, as they have been every single time since 2014 as proven by everything that happened last year. To defend Borges is to be stupid, no matter what you say. To expect he gets lucky, despite everything, is a different thing. It is called hope and it is irrational, so good luck with that. There is nothing I want more to be wrong. But I am not. I said Capriles was corrupt, you called me a troll. Then we hear abour Odebrecht. Etc, etc. You call people trolls for saying obvious things, and then you call yourselves ‘rationals’, even though you have blind faith in people that has a very poor record to say the least and are willing to make the same mistake more than twice. Nobody honest who is not retarded or blinded by false hope, would be happy with Borges. In fact, nobody likes Borges, even though he spends a fortune in propaganda. So i suspect most of his defenders are just plain corrupt; they are the kind of oppo people that speak very ill of the dictatorship, but at the same time they somehow make a lot of money. So of course that for those kind of people it.is no tragedy to see Maduro in power until 20000000000021. They are no better.than the boliburgueses, and it.is possible that in time we will find our how.corrupt they really are, just as we found out about Capriles and many others.

  9. Tareck family background:

    http://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2017/01/10/Syrian-Lebanese-rumored-to-succeed-Maduro-in-Venezuela.html

    I think Maduro surrounded himself with doper buddies thist time from the Adan Chavez mafia. Between Maduro-Flores-Reverol-Tareck-Adan you have the most powerful drug clan. This crowd flies the cocaine out any which way. Front door, back door, in your face. You name it. They have flown cocaine in diplomatic pouches and as relief shipments for Haiti. Obama ignored the cocaine and Venezuela. Can Trump do the same?

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