Venezuela illegally issued 10 thousand 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.

Colonel Vladimir Medrano Rengifo said the operation was headed by current Vice President Tareck El Aissami and that 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, affirming that “they could be anywhere in the world, traveling with Venezuelan documentation.” He added 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, was sanctioned by the United States in January for his links to drug trafficking and to the Islamist militant group Hezbollah.

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