Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has named Tarek El Aissami as the new vice president for 2017.
The announcement was made Wednesday as part of a series of changes to the government Cabinet, which Maduro claimed would “combine experience, commitment and the new stage of the government of the street.”
The decision marks a crucial change in the leadership of the Venezuelan government.
In the case that Maduro’s presidential mandate is revoked in a recall referendum, El Aissami will be the next president of Venezuela.
El Aissami will replace Aristobulo Isturiz, who will move to the Ministry of Community and Social Movements.
A lawyer and criminologist, El Aissami has a long personal and political history with the socialist PSUV party.
Born to a Syrian-Lebanese family in a humble neigborhood in Merida, his father was closely aligned with socialist parties and was detained in 1992 for his political views.
His family home was also subject to various police raids during the repressive regime of the Fourth Republic of Venezuela.
With this experience of state repression, El Aissami was elected to the National Assembly in 2005.
His political career quickly advanced. Two years later, El Aissami was appointed the vice minister of Civilian Security and in 2008, he was named by then-President Hugo Chavez as interior minister and justice.
Under his leadership, the ministry helped capture 75 leaders of international drug rings wanted by Interpol.
In 2009, El Aissami founded the Bolivarian Police Force, a vanguard security organization that broke with the repressive regime of the past.
In December 2012, the new vice president was elected the governor of Aragua, with over 55 percent of the votes.
Serving as governor between 2012 and 2016, El Aissami helped launch various social initiatives.
In 2012, he created the transport company Transportes Aragua and also organized Misión A Toda Vida Aragua, a special security mission to improve safety and increase community awareness.
El Aissami will assume the vice presidency as part of a new-look government Cabinet for 2017.
Also announced was the amalgamation of economic ministries into one Ministry of Economy and Finance, to be led by Professor Ramon Lobo.
New posts include Nelson Martinez as minister of oil and mining, Elías Jaua Milano as minister of education of vice president of socialist missions, Adán Coromoto Chávez Frías as minister of culture, Hugbel Roa as minister of university education, science and technology, Antonieta Zamora as minister of health and Francisco Torrealba as minister of labor.