A Colombian businessman suspected of money laundering in Miami has been transferred to the United States. Businessman Alex Saab is a close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. After the extradition, the Venezuelan authorities announced that they would suspend talks with the opposition.

US prosecutors say Alex Saab illegally amassed a fortune by dealing on behalf of the socialist government in Caracas, which has been heavily sanctioned by the US. US officials have been monitoring Saab for years, believing it knows many secrets about how Maduro, the family of the Venezuelan president, and his most important aides have profited from millions of dollars in government food and housing contracts, while oil-rich Venezuela starves.

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The Colombian was arrested 16 months ago in Cape Verde on his way to Iran. After a year of legal struggle, on Saturday he boarded a plane chartered by the US Department of Justice to face the charges.

Caracas holds talks with opposition pending

Jorge Rodriguez, who headed the government delegation to negotiations with the opposition that began in Mexico in August, said his team would not participate in the next round of scheduled talks. However, he did not indicate a complete abandonment of them. The Associated Press noted that Rodriguez, standing in front of the giant slogan “Free Alex Saab,” described his arrest as an illegal “aggression” by the United States, which has been pressing for years to remove Maduro from power.

Jorge Rodriguez announced the suspension of talks with the oppositionReuters

The Associated Press added that Maduro also denounced Washington for “kidnapping” the businessman. Saab’s defenders, including the authorities in Caracas and their allies Russia and Cuba, consider the arrest illegal. They insist that Saab, as a diplomatic envoy from the Venezuelan Saab government bound for Iran, is immune from prosecution in the performance of official duties.

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The Palestinian Authority indicated that Maduro’s government objected to Saab’s accusation that it was a disguised attempt by Washington to change the regime.

American businessmen arrested

Hours after the extradition, Venezuelan security forces arrested six US oil company chiefs who were under house arrest in another politically motivated case. The PA maintains that it is unclear whether these men, who were sentenced to long prison terms in a corruption case, which the US said implied wrongdoing, were returned to prison.

The agency noted that when the so-called Citgo six of the Houston branch – six managers associated with the state-owned Venezuelan Oil Company – were lured to Caracas in 2017 for a meeting, the police arrested the Americans. They faced embezzlement charges.

Main image source: Reuters