News ID: 317153
Published: 0237 GMT October 17, 2021

Venezuela suspends opposition talks after envoy extradited to US

Venezuela suspends opposition talks after envoy extradited to US
ARIANA CUBILLOS/AP

Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez (C) speaks to the press in front of an image of Colombian businessman and Venezuelan special envoy Alex Saab in Caracas, Venezuela, on October 16, 2021.

Venezuela said it would suspend negotiations with the opposition that were set to resume this weekend, after Cape Verde extradited Colombian businessman Alex Saab, a Venezuelan envoy, to the United States on money laundering charges.

The government announcement was made on Saturday by Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the government's negotiating team. Rodriguez said the Venezuelan government would not attend the talks set to begin on Sunday, Reuters reported.

The Venezuelan government in September named Saab – who was arrested in June 2020 when his plane stopped in Cape Verde to refuel – as a member of its negotiating team in talks with the opposition in Mexico, where the two sides are looking to solve their political crisis.

Rodriguez, reading from a statement, called the decision to suspend negotiations "an expression of our deepest protest against the brutal aggression against the person and the investiture of our delegate Alex Saab Moran."

Venezuela, in a Twitter post by the Ministry of Communications, denounced the extradition as a "kidnapping."

Hours after Saab's extradition, Venezuela revoked the house arrest of six former executives of refiner Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA, two sources with knowledge of the situation and a family member told Reuters.

The U.S. Justice Department charged Saab in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme to take advantage of Venezuela's state-controlled exchange rate. The U.S. also sanctioned him for allegedly orchestrating a corruption network that allowed Saab and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to profit from a state-run food subsidy program.

Saab's lawyers have called the U.S. charges "politically motivated."

Cape Verde national radio reported the extradition on Saturday. The government of Cape Verde was not immediately available to comment.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson confirmed Saab's extradition and said he is expected to make his initial court appearance today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The former Citgo executives, who were arrested in November 2017 after being summoned to a meeting at PDVSA headquarters in Caracas, were taken from their homes to one of the headquarters of the intelligence police, two sources said on Saturday.

The six former executives had been released from jail and put on house arrest in April.

The group is made up of five naturalized U.S. citizens and one permanent resident. The U.S. government has repeatedly demanded their release.

 

 

 

   
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