Alex Saab, a businessman considered a front man of the illegitimate president of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and accused of money laundering, he was extradited by Cape Verde to the United States on Saturday, which unleashed the ire of Caracas.
“We were informed that Alex Saab was put on a plane of the United States Department of Justice and sent to that country,” said Manuel Pinto Monteiro, Saab’s lawyer, after describing the measure as illegal, considering that the judicial process in Cape Verde did not it was fully realized.
The United States Department of Justice plane departed from the Amilcar Cabral International Airport, the main one in Cape Verde, located on the island of Sal, according to a correspondent for that country’s state TV, who indicated that there was a strong police presence on the island. via to the terminal.
Venezuela described the extradition as a “kidnapping” of its “ambassador” since Saab, who is Colombian, received nationality and an ambassadorial title while in captivity in Cape Verde, and suspended its participation in the negotiation round with the marked opposition for Sunday in Mexico to discuss the political crisis.
Chavismo had tried to add him to its entourage.
“We will not attend the round that was to begin tomorrow, October 17, in Mexico City as a profound expression of our protest against the brutal aggression” against Saab, said in Caracas the President of Parliament, Jorge Rodríguez, who also leads the delegation of the leftist government of Maduro.
The opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognized as the president in charge of Venezuela by 60 countries, celebrated the extradition.
“Venezuelans, who have seen justice hijacked for years, support and celebrate the justice system of democratic countries like Cape Verde, a nation we recognize for its independence and firmness in the midst of so much pressure,” he wrote on Twiiter, lamenting the decision of the government to get up from the dialogue table.
Directly responsible for hunger
Saab and its business partner Álvaro Pulido, whose whereabouts are unknown, are accused in the United States of running a network that exploited food aid destined for Venezuela.
According to Washington, they sent some US $ 350 million outside of Venezuela to accounts they controlled in the United States and other countries and risk being sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
Saab was indicted in July 2019 in Miami for money laundering and arrested in June 2020 during a plane stopover in Cape Verde, off the coast of West Africa.
Colombian President Iván Duque said on Twitter that the extradition “is a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption that has led to the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro.”
“Colombia has supported and will continue to support the United States in an investigation against a transnational crime network led by Saab,” he added.
Cape Verde’s highest court authorized last month to hand over Saab to the United States, after all judicial remedies have been exhausted.
“With this process, the transition to justice of someone who has stolen millions of dollars from Venezuelans, who is directly responsible for hunger and the humanitarian crisis,” said Julio Borges, Guaidó’s foreign representative, in a statement.
Figurehead of the autocracy
The Chavista regime fought tirelessly for the release of Saab, who denounced “mistreatment and torture” during his detention in Cape Verde, and called for a march in the center of Caracas for this Sunday. “Alex Saab, kidnapped by the empire,” says the pamphlet accompanied by a photo of the businessman.
“Never before has Chavismo done so much for someone,” explained Roberto Deniz, a journalist for the Armando.info site, who has written extensively about the Saab case and who has an arrest warrant in Venezuela for “incitement to hatred”. “It is clear that there is a lot of fear,” he added.
The former attorney general of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega, has cataloged him as the “main figurehead of the autocracy” of Maduro and his family, and assured this Saturday that his extradition “is an achievement for those of us who seek justice against those responsible for the tragedy and chaos. that Venezuelans live ”.
Shortly after the extradition was confirmed, authorities reversed a house-to-jail measure against six former oil executives serving time in Venezuela for corruption and took them to an unknown prison.
Although the measure is not officially related, five of them have US nationality and the other, permanent residence in that country.
“My dad just said to my mom: ‘They come looking for us,’ and nothing else. We don’t know where it is going. Again it is a forced disappearance, ”said Verónica Vadell, daughter of Tomeu Vadell, one of the former executives of Citgo, a subsidiary of the state oil company PDVSA.