The Venezuelan government halted negotiations with the opposition in protest of the extradition of a confidant and ally of President Maduro to the United States. That man, Colombian businessman Alex Saab, was handed over by the Cape Verdean government this weekend to the US government, which suspects him of corruption, theft of public funds and money laundering in the US.
Today’s negotiations were to take place in Mexico City on a way out of the political crisis that has engulfed Venezuela since the beginning of 2019: then both Socialist President Maduro and his main rival Juan Guaido declared themselves president, a situation that has not been resolved since. Guaido has been recognized as president by dozens of countries, including the United States and the Netherlands, but Maduro remains in power. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan economy has been in free fall in recent years.
Saab had been trapped in Cape Verde since June 2020, when he was arrested when his plane landed to refuel on its way to Iran. The Venezuelan government says he was on his way to Iran on a government humanitarian and diplomatic mission. The Ministry of Communications, on Twitter, described his arrest and extradition as a kidnapping.
Saab was also added last month to the team that will negotiate with the opposition on Maduro’s behalf. In protest against this “brutal aggression” by the United States, Maduro’s negotiating team is moving away from Mexico City, said parliamentarian Jorge Rodriguez, who leads the team.
The Maduro government has asserted in recent months that suspicions against Saab are just pretexts for the United States to force a change of power and bring their “candidate” Guaido to power. However, the US government alleges that Saab is involved in the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds, including funds for social housing and food aid to poor Venezuelans. According to the Americans, he did this to Maduro and his family.
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