Venezuela

US disrupts Iranian fuel deliveries to Venezuela, official says

The Trump administration halted scheduled Iranian fuel deliveries to Venezuela Wednesday by threatening sanctions on the ships carrying the cargo, according to U.S. officials. Iran and Venezuela attempted to outmaneuver American sanctions by establishing a new oil partnership. Two Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned ships that “were en route to Venezuela carrying Iranian fuel, scrapped their deliveries after the U.S. threatened sanctions,” a senior U.S. official told Fox News. First reported by The Wall Street Journal, the ships were expected to arrive in Venezuela as the final delivery in a previously planned five-oil-tanker shipment, an effort that the Venezuelan regime has said is a partnership to thwart the American sanctions. “The Iranian oil tankers arriving in Venezuela are nothing but a distraction from the real problems facing Maduro,” a spokesperson from the State Department told Fox News. “These shipments will do nothing to help Venezuelans, they will only help prop up the former Maduro regime for a little while longer.” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said in a televised address: “We are two rebel revolutionary peoples that are never going to kneel before North American imperialism.” But the Greek-owned ships would have been unable to access international banking and maritime insurance had they carried out the shipment. U.S. officials have been in direct communication with the ships, which are no longer heading to Venezuala but heading south off the coast of Senegal near Liberia, according to The Wall Street Journal. The State Department’s Iran Action Group reportedly contacted the Liberian government, to which the two ships are registered, to warn them against sanctions. The Liberian government immediately revoked the ships’ accreditation. The two Greek firms that own the ships were also threatened with U.S. sanctions and legal action, at which point the two ships abandoned the course, according to The Journal. The U.S. has been increasing its efforts in pressuring both nations with sanctions. “We will continue to use the full weight of United States’ economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” the State Department spokesperson told Fox News. President Trump has also increased sanctions on Venezuela, drastically affecting its oil production. According to experts, the oil shipments were only expected to satisfy Venezuelan demand for a couple of weeks. “Iranian gas cannot prevent the inevitable: a democratic transition that restores prosperity to Venezuela,” the State Department spokesperson said.

Iran tankers sailing to Venezuela in effort to undermine US sanctions

Iran and Venezuela are working together to circumvent United States sanctions, according to reports. Five Iranian tankers are sailing to Venezuela, carrying at least $45.5 million worth of gasoline and similar products. The capacity of the ships is believed to be around 175,000 metric tons. “This is like a new one for everyone,” said Capt. Ranjith Raja, an analyst who tracks oil shipments by sea at the data firm Refinitiv, of the gasoline shipments. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.” Raja notes the ships all appear to have been loaded from the Persian Gulf Star Refinery near Bandar Abbas, Iran, which makes gasoline. One of the vessels, the Clavel, listed its AIS destination as Caracas beginning May 12, according to log data from ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. The vessel later changed its destination as “TO ORDER” two days later, though the ship remains on route to what appears to be Venezuela as it leaves the Mediterranean Sea. Given the crushing U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran, Venezuela appears to be the country willing to accept the shipments. Raja said Refinitiv had no data on any Iranian gasoline shipment ever going to South America before. Quoted by a website affiliated to Iranian state television, cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei on Saturday said he did not have any information on the ships. “We have to sell our oil and we have access to its paths,” Rabiei said. “Iran and Venezuela are two independent nations that have had trade with each other and they will” in the future. Iran has warned America that it will retaliate against any actions should America act “like pirates” and attack any of the vessels. “If the United States, like pirates, intends to create insecurity on international highways, it will take a dangerous risk that will certainly not go unnoticed,” warned Nour, an Iranian news agency believed to have ties to the country’s Supreme National Security Council. Venezuela suffers a deepening economic crisis, which has driven up crime rates and deepened political divides within the country. Crumbling public services such as running water, electricity and medical care have driven nearly 5 million people to leave. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has previously turned to Iran for help, but Iran has finally responded after the coronavirus pandemic, an oil crisis and U.S. sanctions have hit the Iranian economy. Earlier this month, Iran authorized the replacement of the rial with the toman, which is worth 10,000 rials, in an effort to curb the rampant inflation that has ravaged the country. Iran’s currency as lost more than 60 percent of its value while consumer prices rose 37 percent just this year. It remains unclear how the U.S. will respond to the tankers. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury, State Department and Coast Guard issued an advisory warning the maritime industry of illegal shipping and sanctions-dodging tactics by countries, including Iran.

Socialist Venezuela, Where Everyone Is a Millionaire and No One Can Afford Eggs

What if I told you that in the socialist paradise of Venezuela, everyone’s a millionaire? The Bolivarian Revolution has raised the minimum wage over 50 times throughout the past 20 years. As of May 2020, it’s been set at 400,000 bolivars, plus a 400,000 socialist food ticket bonus, bringing it to an astounding total of 800,000 bolivars per month. Millions of people rely only on minimum wage incomes. The government keeps the number of people on minimum wage in the country largely under wraps, although everyone that works in the public sector is pretty much subject to minimum wage (salaries in the dwindling private sector are usually better-ish). The elderly under pension (4.5 million citizens as of a year ago) are also subject to it. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s a pretty looking number — then you realize that those amount to approximately $4-5 USD per month, and the reality kicks in. Hyperinflation, price controls, and barely symbolic minimum wage raises: these three elements have caused incalculable headaches to the citizens of Venezuela over the past decade, to the point that they’ve become borderline elements of our folklore amidst the ongoing collapse of socialist Venezuela. It’s a repeat of the never-ending cycle that we’ve been entrapped for so many years now, except now it comes with a twist: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted everyone’s lives and has greatly exacerbated those three heads of the socialist hydra. The added novelty, if it can be called that, is that the mandatory masks visually cover your astonishment (or lack thereof) when something you bought last week is suddenly twice as expensive. What can you buy with this brand new minimum wage of 800,000 bolivars per month? Not much, really. Even though the bolivar received a facelift and a new currency scale in August 2018, we’re already at a point where spending millions on the most basic things shouldn’t be cause for concern. I carried out my weekly supermarket grocery run on May 4 and I asked for 250 grams (a little more than half a pound) of the cheapest ham and cheese they had available, this is how much they went for: That’s 633,356 bolivars right there. The cheapest loaf of sandwich bread that I could find went for 259,700 bolivars, bringing these three items to a whopping 893,056 bolivars – roughly $5 depending on the day’s exchange rate. So, realistically, the minimum wage is so absurdly low that it’s not sufficient to make enough sandwiches for a month. Sure, you could find cheaper alternatives, but it’d still devour most of it. These minimum wage raises used to be a matter of praise and celebration for the Bolivarian Revolution and its grotesque media machine – the below poster, for example, from dictator Nicolás Maduro’s state television propaganda outlet boasts of 47 minimum wage increases in the history of the socialist regime in Venezuela that began in 1999, as of January 2019. Two years ago, it was very common to have them occur almost every two months, which was akin to putting out a fire by spraying gasoline at it. Now that the damage is done, they come at a more sparse rate and are announced as discreetly as possible without any of the fanfare — yet the regime retains the sheer audacity of claiming that Venezuela is “the only country that has raised wages amidst the pandemic,” heralding $4 per month was some utopian socialist achievement. While minimum wages have progressively grown, they never have amounted to much. It’s a cat (hyperinflation) and mouse (wages) game where the mouse is already dead from the get-go. Around mid-September 2019, I purchased the same type of bread as in the above photo, except that the price at the time was 38,800 bolivars, not 259,700 bolivars. If we go by an average exchange rate at the time it was produced, it gives you roughly $1.75. The minimum wage at the time was 40,000 — or $1.80. If we do the same conversion to the loaf of bread that I bought this week (259,700.00 with an exchange rate of 178,502.21) it gives you $1.45. It would seem like the bread itself has gotten cheaper. Then again, in October 2019, the minimum wage was increased from 40,000 to 300,000 bolivars (150,000 bolivars plus a 150,000 “socialist basket ticket” food bonus). Going by an average exchange rate at the time it was introduced, the minimum wage translated to $14 per month. All of these minimum wage increases have not only amounted to nothing, but whatever meager gains they have created are rapidly devoured by hyperinflation. Like I said, a game of cat and mouse where the mouse is already dead from the start.

THIS is the failures of socialism.  THIS is what Bernie, AOC, and the rest of their ilk want America to be like.  A big thanks to Christian K. Caruzo for that eye-opening account of life in Venezuela.  Christian is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter.  For more, click on the text above.

U.S. expands Navy presence in Caribbean. Is military action against Maduro more likely?

When President Donald Trump weighed the options earlier last year to address the political and humanitarian consequences of Nicolás Maduro’s tight grip on power in Venezuela, he realized his harsh rhetoric against the South American leader was not backed up by a show of force in the region. That was corrected Wednesday, as Trump, surrounded by the country’s top officials, announced an expanded military presence near the Venezuelan shores that had been unseen for decades. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, National Security Council Director Robert O’Brien and Attorney General William Barr all said during the press conference that the additional military is meant to crack down on “counternarcotics operations,” but is also aimed at denying funds to Maduro and his closest allies, who have been recently indicted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. “When we started the maximum pressure policy in January, the president analyzed what our military assets were in the Western Hemisphere because obviously, all the options were and are on the table,” a senior administration official told the Miami Herald. “There was no balance; most of our assets were in the Middle East, Asia, etc., so he asked to recalibrate those assets to have the necessary presence in the hemisphere to see where this situation was going” regarding Venezuela, he added. The move was in line with Trump’s longtime belief that the U.S. should not spend resources on faraway regions, the official said. The shift from considering Maduro “illegitimate” to being publicly labeled a “narco-terrorist” provided a rationale for the military moves, despite government data suggesting Venezuela is not a primary transit country for U.S.-bound cocaine. The official also cited the destabilization that the Venezuelan political and humanitarian crises have caused in the region, with millions of Venezuelans overwhelming neighboring countries such as Colombia, as another imperative to expand U.S. military presence in the hemisphere. Colombian President Iván Duque was one of the loudest voices asking for more support to deal with the migrants but also with the “narco-terrorists” of Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, the FARC and the ELN, both harbored by Maduro in Venezuela. Esper published a list of the forces mobilized for the mission, including Navy destroyers, Coast Guard cutters, Navy littoral combat ships, helicopters, Navy P-8 patrol aircraft, along with Air Force E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS to carry out airborne surveillance, control, and communications. The operation includes security forces assistance brigades. At the press conference Wednesday, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there were “thousands” of sailors, Coast Guardsmen, soldiers, airmen and Marines involved. Some experts have been surprised by some of the assets mobilized to the region. “There is some serious military hardware listed here,” said Adam Isaacson, the director of the Defense Oversight program at the Washington Office on Latin America. I can’t recall the last time there were U.S. Navy destroyers in the Caribbean or the eastern Pacific coast [on operations, not exercises]. And each E-3 AWACS plane costs more than a quarter-billion dollars,” he said on Twitter. According to the U.S. Southern Command, in charge of carrying out the operation in the Caribbean and the Pacific Eastern coast, those aircraft have been in use in the region. “AWACs is one of the aircraft we have used to conduct detection and monitoring operations in the past,” José Ruiz, a media relations officer at Southcom, told the Miami Herald. “Insofar as Navy ships are concerned, flight-deck capable ships are one of the assets that comprise the kind of force package that enables the disruption of illicit drugs flowing into the U.S.” Such Coast Guard “force packages” — patrol aircraft, ships with flight decks, helicopters and law enforcement detachments — are standard in counternarcotics operations, Southcom’s commander, Navy Adm. Craig Faller, has been advocating for more resources for counternarcotics operations in Central and South America. In a congressional hearing in March, he announced that U.S. military presence would increase in the region in terms of ships, aircraft, and security forces to “reassure partners” in combating “illicit narco-terrorism.” News of the operation has unsettled Venezuelan leaders and revived hopes within the Venezuelan population that a U.S. military action against Maduro is in the making.

Ya never know..  Maduro is probably terrified he might end up like former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whom we captured back in 1989 for similar narco trafficking reasons, and put him in federal prison.  We’ll, of course, keep an eye on this developing story.  For more, click on the text above.

Venezuela President Maduro wanted by DOJ for drug trafficking, Barr announces

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday unsealed a searing criminal indictment against Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolas Maduro and several “co-conspirators,” accusing them of an array of narcotics and trafficking-related crimes, including efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States. At a press conference on Thursday morning, Department of Justice officials announced a slew of charges pertaining to Maduro’s conspiracy to commit narco-terrorism – which carries a minimum of 50 years behind bars. The DOJ underscored that while he is currently in Venezuela, the 57-year-old is known to travel outside and is now offering a $15 million reward for information that will lead to his capture. The DOJ, emphasizing that the latest round of indictments are the result of many years of investigation, charged a number of high-ranking “co-conspirators” and offered $10 million rewards for information leading to their capture. The department also accused the country’s Chief Justice of money laundering and bribery, which resulted in thousands of Venezuelans to lose their jobs and livelihoods, and Venezuela’s military head of further drug-trafficking violations. According to U.S. officials, Venezuela has long allowed Colombians connected with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials, “FARC,” to utilize its airspace to fly cocaine north through Central America and into North America. Moreover, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman claimed that the illicit cooperation between the Colombians and Venezuelans had been in place for over 20 years, and represented a deliberate endeavor by Maduro and his regime to “flood the United States with cocaine.” The announcement of the charges followed months of pressure by President Trump’s administration on Maduro’s regime, which the United States considers illegitimate following an election not deemed satisfactory by many world powers. While the United States and more than 100 other countries no longer recognize Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela – instead throwing their support behind opposition figure Juan Guiado – coupled with a laundry list of economic sanctions, Maduro has maintained his position at the helm in the capital Caracas, overseeing the socialist regime and commanding the security forces. The indictment of a functioning head of state is highly unusual and is bound to ratchet up tensions between Washington and Caracas. However, the U.S. has long accused Maduro and his government of human rights abuses, torture, corruption, and paving the way for cartels, terrorist groups and traffickers to exploit the oil-swathed nation, once the wealthiest in Latin America.

 

US military prepping for Guaidó takeover in Venezuela

The commander of U.S. forces in Latin America told Congress Wednesday that the military is developing plans to be immediately ready for any contingency if Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó ousts dictator Nicolás Maduro from power. Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command, told the House Armed Services Committee he believes it is only a matter of time before Guaidó, president of the country’s National Assembly, takes control. Guaidó encouraged Venezuelans to take to the streets starting Tuesday, saying that the final phase of “Operation Freedom” had begun. “[T]here is going to be a day when the legitimate government takes over, and it’s going to come when we least expect it,” said Faller. “And it could be right now, so we are calling it ‘day now’ planning.” Faller told the committee that repairing Venezuela’s dilapidated economic and energy infrastructure after years of corruption and mismanagement won’t be a sample task. “[T]he magnitude of the misery is going to require every element of international unity that currently exists,” he said. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked Faller if military planning includes contingencies involving the aftermath of a U.S. intervention in the country. Faller said the military is preparing for anything the president has said is on the table, adding that “we are on the balls of our feet.” He said he would prefer to disclose the details in a closed session of Congress. Trump has kept military options on the table since Venezuela’s political crisis began. In January, the United States and dozens of other Western nations recognized Guaidó as the country’s interim president. “The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today in an interview on Fox Business Network. Venezuela’s political turmoil has been exacerbated by mass food shortages. The average Venezuelan has lost 20 pounds in the last year, Faller said, with 90 percent of people suffering from malnutrition. Responsibility for the continuing crisis “squarely rests on Cuba, Russia, and to some extent China,” the admiral told the committee. The Pentagon has estimated as many as 20,000 Cuban forces are supporting the Maduro regime. An unknown number of Russian military personnel and mercenaries are also believed to be in Venezuela, with 100 special advisers flying in recently. “It’s significant, and it’s contributing to the devastation,” said Faller. Trump threatened an embargo against Cuba yesterday. “If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete … embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba,” the president said in a pair of tweets. Government officials and experts have warned that the conflict in Venezuela could create an immigration crisis larger than that caused by the Syrian civil war. The United Nations estimates that about 3.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country, with 1.8 million leaving in 2018 alone.

Citigroup to sell more than $1B in Venezuelan gold in blow to Maduro regime, reports say

Citigroup Inc. plans to sell several tons of Venezuelan gold it received as collateral from the Maduro regime to settle the country’s $1.6 billion loan after the deadline to repurchase the precious metal expired earlier this month, reports said Wednesday. Venezuela was due to repay $1.1 billion of the loan March 11, according to the terms of the 2015 deal with Citigroup’s Citibank, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The remainder of the loan is due next year. Citibank now plans to sell the gold, valued at roughly $1.358 billion, to recover the first tranche of the loan, two of the sources told the outlet. The excess $258 million from the sale will be deposited into a U.S. bank account in New York. The development marks another financial blow to President Nicolas Maduro’s regime. Not only won’t it be able to access the cash in the U.S. account, but it could see it handed over to the transitional government being formed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, Bloomberg reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. The socialist regime previously faced a financial setback in January when the Bank of England denied Maduro’s request to withdraw $1.2 billion of gold stored there. A week later, Venezuelan officials reportedly planned to ship 20 tons of gold, worth around $850 million, overseas to protect the country’s hard assets amid international pressure mounting against Maduro to cede power. The plan was reportedly halted before the gold could be loaded in Caracas onto an airliner from Russia, a major financial backer of Maduro’s presidency, along with Turkey and China. The ultimate destination of the bars was unknown. Maduro depleted more than 40 percent of the country’s gold reserves last year in a desperate bid to pay creditors and fund government programs as the nation deals with a crippling economy, a lack of basic necessities for its people and rising inflation under his socialist rule, Bloomberg reported. All that remains of the central bank’s dwindling international reserves is $8.7 billion, most of which is held in physical gold, the outlet reported.

Someone needs to confront Bernie, AOC, and the rest of the Democrat socialists on camera with this story and ask why, here in America, should embrace such failed economic policies.  We have the most robust economy probably ever, thanks to DEregulation, and the Dems are running on what?  Reversing that success?  President Trump needs to stop talking about Mueller, Russia, and the late Sen. John McCain (R), and instead hammer away at the economic successes of the last two years….and stay focused on that.  There are SO many success stories there!  Then, contrast it with the failed socialism of Venezuela.  Keep it focused and simple.

Venezuela sinks into sewer socialism: Citizens turn to drainage pipes in search of water

Venezuela’s massive power blackout has left some residents so desperate for water that they’ve turned to drainage pipes. Citizens along the Guaire River in Caracas are filling buckets with clear — but unsanitary — water exiting a sewage pipe in the latest calamity to hit the socialist nation. What they can collect and carry is used to flush toilets and scrub floors. “I’ve never even seen this before. It’s horrible, horrible,” Lilibeth Tejedor, 28, said Monday, Reuters reported. “The ones that are most affected are the children, because how do you tell a child that there’s no water?” “They’re killing us with hunger and thirst,” added 52-year-old Gladys Martinez. Children playing near the drainage pipes were scolded for putting themselves at risk for illness and disease. “That water’s dirty! Don’t start playing around because remember there’s no medicine,” one woman shouted, Reuters reported.

And this is but one of many stories coming out of Venezuela..thanks to the failed socialism imposed on the people there by President Maduro.  People are eating grass and their own pets…or starving.  THESE are the stories that need to be shared with millennials who think AOC or Bernie are so great…and who think we need socialism here in America.  No, we don’t.  If anything, we need LESS government; not more.

Desperate women fleeing Venezuela sell hair, breast milk, sex to get by

CUCUTA, Colombia – Although the sun has barely risen, this border city with Venezuela is already bursting with chaos. Thousands upon thousands of Venezuelans pour into Colombia over the crowded cross-country bridge, their faces gaunt, carrying little more than a backpack. Rail-thin women cradle their tiny babies, and beg along the trash-strewn gutters. Teens hawk everything from cigarettes to sweets and water for small change. The young, the old and the disabled cluster around the lone Western Union office – recently established to deal with the Venezuelan influx – in the hopes of receiving or sending a few dollars to send home. Without passports or work permits, the Venezuelans – many with university degrees or decent jobs in what was once the wealthiest nation in Latin America – are now resorting to whatever it takes to survive. “Hair, looking for hair,” an older man choruses through the crowd, turning to a group of women clutching their small children. Another man nearby holds a sign, “we buy hair.” More and more girls and women are turning to the cut the make ends meet, and feed their families for a few days. Women sell their locks to local wigmakers in Colombia for around $10-30, depending on length and quality. Other women sell their bodies. Girls as young as 14 line the Cucuta streets available “for hire,” earning around seven dollars “per service.” “Due to the brutal economic situation in Venezuela, they come to Colombia looking for a job, or at least for shelter and basic care. But they usually end up selling candles or coffee at traffic lights,” said Amy Roth Sandrolini, Chief of Staff at The Exodus Road, a U.S.-based organization devoted to fighting human trafficking globally. “Where they also become vulnerable to being recruited, to become victims of human trafficking.” Both men and women are exposed to sex trafficking along the route from Venezuela to Colombia. According to several walkers, some women “chose” prostitution as a means to make money and earn rides along the way. And some heterosexual men “sell themselves on the gay market” for a little money. Other women are manipulated or forced into giving “pimp types” their documents and identification cards, and are subsequently drawn into prostitution rings. That’s particularly the case in border areas, where many rebel and drug-trafficking groups operate. They come from a country they say now resembles a war zone. Their lives have been ripped apart by displacement, starvation, disease, desperation and torment. But now they’re in Colombia, where conditions are far from perfect, but are at least safer, and more stable. Inside Venezuela, health care has all but dissolved. Children are dying of malaria and hepatitis. They’re breaking bones and burning their bodies, having been left unattended while their parents comb the streets for work and food. Suicide rates too have skyrocketed, even among children. Specific numbers are impossible to come by as the government refuses to track or release accurate data, yet Venezuelan children’s rights group CECODAP estimates there has been at least an 18 percent rise in teens taking their own lives over the past year. There are next to no mental health services.

THIS is a classic study of a failed socialist state.  It’s also just another reason why we need to secure our southern border.  For more, click on the text above.  Awful..

Venezuela illegally issued 10,000 passports to Syrians, Iranians, report says

A former director of Venezuela’s Office of Identification, Migration and Foreigners said that during his 17 months in the post, the socialist government gave at least 10,000 Venezuelan passports and other documents to citizens of Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. In an interview with El Nuevo Herald, Colonel Vladimir Medrano Rengifo said the operation was headed by current Vice President Tareck El Aissami. He said most passports and visas were granted in the Venezuelan Consulate in Damascus, Syria’s capital. “Today we don’t know where these people are, nor what they are doing,” said Medrano, who currently resides in the United States. “They can be anywhere in the world, traveling with Venezuelan documentation,” adding that the number of Middle Eastern individuals with irregular Venezuelan documentation could be much larger. Colonel Medrano was dismissed in October 2009 by El Aissami, who was then Minister of Interior and Justice. According to Medrano, El Aissami fired him because he knew he was trying to dismantle the human smuggling network. El Aissami, one of the most powerful men in Venezuela, has long been investigated in the United States for his alleged links to drug trafficking and to the Islamist militant group Hezbollah. In January he became the most senior Venezuelan official to ever be targeted by the U.S., when the Trump administration decreed sanctions against him and Samark Lopez, a wealthy Venezuelan businessman believed to be his front man in Miami. In the Sunday interview, Medrano told El Nuevo Herald that El Aissami was directly involved in the passport scheme. He said that whenever his office reported irregularities involving Syria-issued passports, El Aissami ordered him to look the other way. Medrano said the passports were legitimate, but the people carrying them were not Venezuelans.