ColombiaOne.comEconomyU.S. Releases Alex Saab After Prisoner Exchange with Venezuela

U.S. Releases Alex Saab After Prisoner Exchange with Venezuela


U.S. releases Alex Saab after swap with Venezuela – Photo: @NicolasMaduro / X

The United States has released businessman Alex Saab, after a prisoner exchange with Venezuela. Saab, who has been accused on several occasions of acting as a front man for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, was received as a national hero in a televised event presided over by the president of the South American country.

Saab was facing a charge of money laundering, after being arrested in Cape Verde in June 2020 and extradited to the USA fourteen months later. The businessman landed in Caracas accompanied by Jorge Rodriguez, head of Maduro’s government delegation in the negotiations with the opposition and the United States that led to his release.

The agreement includes the release of 20 more Venezuelans, while, for its part, the government of Nicolás Maduro will release ten Americans held in its jails.

Saab’s release, part of the Barbados Agreement

The release of Alex Saab is part of the Barbados Agreement, signed between the government and the Venezuelan opposition a few months ago and which served for the US to temporarily lift sanctions on Venezuelan oil and gas exports.

Based on this pact, the international community expects Venezuelan presidential elections to be held with transparency and guarantees for the opposition before the end of 2024. In these agreements, the release of Saab had become the currency of the Maduro government, which demanded the gesture as a condition to unblock negotiations with the country’s political opposition.

The agreement has been defended by the US president, after months of negotiation “… active internal deliberation and regular consultations with the president, who has been informed of every step of this process,” it was pointed out from the White House.

Venezuela has yet to meet a key condition of the United States related to the political status of opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado. This condition is significant for the continuation of the lifted trade embargo.

Reception organized by Maduro

The President of Venezuela presided over the welcome ceremony for Alex Saab. “I want to welcome this brave man”, said the Venezuelan president, in the presence of the businessman who recently landed on Venezuelan soil. Maduro also affirmed that “after 1,280 days of kidnapping, the truth has triumphed”. For his part, the businessman thanked the politician for “his perseverance” in the legal process that has lasted three and a half years.

Likewise, the Venezuelan Minister of Communication has stated in social networks that the government “celebrates with joy the release and return to his homeland of our diplomat Alex Saab, who until today was unjustly kidnapped in a U.S. prison”.

The communiqué goes on to state that “Alex Saab is a victim of retaliation by the U.S. government for his exceptional international efforts to protect the social rights of all Venezuelans”.

Who is Alex Saab?

Saab is a businessman of Colombian origin, born in Barranquilla 52 years ago. He is the son of Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants, married and the father of five children. From an early age he dedicated himself to commerce and generated more than 20,000 jobs in one hundred clothing stores, exporting to more than ten countries, including Venezuela, where he began his commercial activity in 2000.

Subsequently, he branched out into the social housing construction industry and, later, participated in the social program of the Local Supply and Production Committee (CLAP). He was in charge of important agreements with Mexican, Turkish, Colombian and other countries’ companies.

Since 2017, he is accused of acting as a front man for Nicolás Maduro and of doing business with the Venezuelan government for US$135 million, both during Nicolás Maduro’s stage, as well as during Hugo Chávez’s stage.

The Venezuelan government originally denied or ignored any relationship with Saab, but years later, after his arrest in Cape Verde, began to deploy a support campaign in favor of Saab to avoid his extradition. Similarly, according to a communiqué issued by the Venezuelan government, at the time of his capture Saab was on his way to guarantee food for the government’s distribution system, the CLAP, “as well as medicines, medical supplies and other humanitarian goods for relief during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

CLAP is a food program in place since 2016 in Venezuela – Credit: Noonlcarus / CC BY-SA 4.0

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