A key ally of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. on Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.
Why it matters: Venezuela’s government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest hours later, per AP.
- If Saab were to cooperate with American officials, it could potentially help them untangle the president’s “economic web” and charge other Venezuelan government allies, the New York Times notes.
The big picture: The U.S. Department of Justice indicted Saab in 2019 in connection with a $350 million illegal bribery scheme the DOJ said involved a Venezuelan government housing project. Saab denies the charge.
- Law enforcement officials detained Saab in Cape Verde in June last year after his plane stopped to refuel in the West African island nation, Reuters reports.
What they’re saying: His lawyers have said that as Saab is Venezuela’s envoy to Iran, he shouldn’t have been arrested, Bloomberg notes. They claim he was extradited without his legal team being informed about it, according to the NYT.
- Maduro’s regime condemned Saab’s extradition in a statement calling his arrest a “grave human rights violation.” It accused the United Nations and several countries of plotting against the Venezuelan government.
Of note: Freddy Guevara, one of the delegates for the Venezuelan opposition, announced Saturday that he wouldn’t be traveling to Mexico because of health complications.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include details of the oil executive’s detention.