This weekend Alex Saab, one of the Maduro regime’s key financial figures, was extradited from Cape Verde to the United States.
The Saab story is a long one; he was detained over a year ago, and used every legal option to fight and delay extradition. It is a tribute to Cape Verde—a true democracy with a fully independent system of justice—that Saab was able to delay his extradition but not to defeat it with ludicrous theories of diplomatic immunity.
Now the question is whether Saab will plea bargain and will talk, because he undoubtedly knows many things about how the Maduro regime has financed itself, and how its leaders have enriched themselves. He also knows a good deal about the regime’s financial ties with Turkey and Iran, and its illicit gold trade.
How did the regime react to the extradition? First, it suspended the current negotiations with the democratic opposition. This is a predictable reaction, and a stupid one; the United States is barely involved in those negotiations, nor does Saab have anything to do with them.
Second, it resumed its practice of human sacrifice: it immediately threw six American CITGO executives back into prison. They have been in and out of prison—to house arrest—since 2017. Most recently they’d been sent back to house arrest as a gesture to the new Biden administration; now they are imprisoned again as a gesture of anger. That is, they are never treated as people, deserving of fair treatment and justice, but entirely as pawns. They have nothing whatsoever to do with Alex Saab, and the brutality of imprisoning them again this weekend is shocking—or would be were this not standard behavior for the Maduro regime.
Alex Saab has had highly paid and expert lawyers defending him for a year and a half in a real and independent system of justice. In addition to the inhumanity of sending the CITGO 6 back to prison, one has to be struck by the contrast. Saab has had in Cape Verde, and will now have in Miami, every legal right to defend himself, and he will continue to do so. The CITGO 6 have no rights, and they inhabit a world where Maduro governs by fiat and courts are instruments of the ruling mafia.
It is a tragic weekend for the CITGO 6 and their families, and a reminder of the brutality of the Maduro regime. Law, rights, and due process have disappeared in Venezuela, while Alex Saab and his lawyers will continue to use those precious commodities as he faces the courts in the United States. The irony is cruel.