The Venezuelan government has halted negotiations with the opposition, in protest of the extradition of a confidant and ally of President Maduro to the US. That man, Colombian businessman Alex Saab, was extradited by the Cape Verdean government over the weekend to the US government, which suspects him of corruption, theft of public money and money laundering in the US.
Today, Mexico City would be negotiating a way out of the political crisis that has been gripping Venezuela since the beginning of 2019: then both Socialist President Maduro and his great competitor Juan Guaidó proclaimed themselves as President of the country, a situation that has not been solved since. Guaidó is recognized as president by dozens of countries, including the US and the Netherlands, but Maduro is still in power. In the meantime, the Venezuelan economy has fallen into free fall in recent years.
Saab had been trapped in Cape Verde since June 2020, where he was arrested when his plane landed to refuel on his way to Iran. The Venezuelan government says he was heading to Iran for a humanitarian and diplomatic government mission. On Twitter, the Communications Department calls his arrest and extradition a kidnapping.
Saab was also added to the team that would negotiate with the opposition on behalf of Maduro last month. In protest against “this brutal aggression” from the US, Maduros negotiating team remains away from Mexico City, says MP Jorge Rodriguez, who leads the team.
The Maduro administration has maintained in recent months that the suspicions against Saab are just pretexts by the US to force a change of power, and to get their candidate Guaidó to power. However, the US government claims that Saab was involved in the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars of government money, including funds intended for social rental housing and food aid for poor Venezuelans. According to the Americans, he did so with Maduro and his family.