CARACAS, Venezuela – The capture of Alex Saab — a Colombian businessman with deep ties to socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro and the regime of Venezuela — by U.S. authorities in Cape Verde has unleashed an ongoing diplomatic and legal war between the Maduro regime, Cape Verde, and the United States to prevent his impending extradition to the United States.
Saab, who has been described as Nicolás Maduro’s financial brain, was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2019 on charges of laundering approximately $350 million, allegedly moved out of Venezuela and through the United States to overseas accounts. Saab also allegedly enriched himself through the supply of housing materials for the late Hugo Chávez’s housing programs. His luxurious mansion in Colombia was seized by that country’s officials in 2020.
International criminal experts believe Maduro, along with the high-ranking members of the socialist party sanctioned by the U.S. government, heavily rely on money laundering to conduct their operations.
His apprehension took place in June 2020 when the private jet he was traveling to Iran in stopped in Cape Verde to refuel. From the very moment of his capture, the socialist regime has made unprecedented efforts to free this man, hiring former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón for his defense – famous for issuing a warrant against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet – and turning Saab into a hero overnight.
Maduro also appointed Saab ambassador of Venezuela to the African Union in December 2020 – meaning Saab would hypothetically be serving as an ambassador in Cape Verde police custody – in a gambit that sought to retroactively grant him a diplomatic immunity. With diplomatic immunity, Caracas hoped, his arrest would become invalid — a gross misuse of the stipulations of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. It didn’t work.
After that failed, the socialist regime of Venezuela took a more public and broad approach while the court appeals took place. The idea was to further cement the narrative that Alex Saab was an unsung hero of the Bolivarian Revolution and Venezuela, that his “humanitarian” efforts were destined to bring aid to a country besieged by America — that all of his travels and journeys were meant to provide Venezuelans with the food and supplies that the U.S. sanctions allegedly have deprived us of.
Regime sympathizers declared Saab the “Oskar Schindler” of Venezuela – after the hero who saved 1,200 Jewish people from certain death under the German Nazi regime – and employed an army of online bots and human labor to artificially push hashtags praising the alleged international criminal.
Accounts operating in Venezuela have inorganically promoted and inflated the influence of hashtags such as #FreeAlexSaab with the help of Nigerian-based influencers expressing support for the African “ambassador.”
— Gabriela Ostos🌹 (@Gabrielaisabh) April 1, 2021
Last year, following pressure from the US, @pm_ucs arrested a Venezuelan diplomatic and is now set to extradite him to the US.
— ☭💚 (@GuerrillaFem78) April 1, 2021
— Gipsy Gastello Salazar (@GipsyGastello) March 29, 2021
Twitter finally began to take action and recently suspended the accounts of the Nigerian influencers who boosted the hashtag, but there is no indication at press time that any action has been taken against the Venezuelan-based accounts that took part in it, government or otherwise — a stark contrast to the aggressive censorship standards imposed on, say, the accounts of conservative personalities in the U.S. This is consistent with Twitter’s inaction against Maduro for promoting false coronavirus cures on his personal account, seemingly the only account on the site that can get away with health misinformation.
At home, the Maduro regime has flooded the main streets and avenues in Caracas with pro-Saab propaganda – graffiti with messages of support towards Saab and opposition to his “unjust” apprehension. Even more ostentatiously, amid extreme poverty and a highly contagious pandemic, the Maduro regime staged a concert in Caracas on February 20 to clamor for the release of this “unsung” hero of the revolution — a musical event seemingly exempt from the regime’s Chinese coronavirus social distancing mandates and “7+7” lockdown schemes imposed on the country for almost a year now. Attendees received a bag of food as payment for their participation.
The CLAP program, a heavily subsidized monthly box of low-quality and often rotten food that the socialist regime of Venezuela distributes (and expects you to survive off of), is one of the most publicly known alleged corrupt business ventures between Alex Saab and the Venezuelan regime. Under threats from the regime, employees of the Salva Foods company, which handles the import and preparation of the CLAP box packages, denounced that they were forced to participate in activities and protests in support of Alex Saab.
As none of Maduro’s bells and whistles had any significant effect in swaying the courts of Cape Verde, the socialist regime then attempted a “humane” approach.
Letters sent by Saab’s family to the president of Cape Verde were meant to highlight of the allegedly inhumane treatment that Saab was being subject to, making note of his alleged weight loss and lack of access to medication. A series of testimonial videos published on YouTube and other social media websites tried to sell a sad story of an innocent man, father of five, unjustly detained. The subject of his weight loss was also part of a letter that Maduro’s foreign ministry sent to the government of Cape Verde.
Saab himself complained about the “inhumane” conditions of his house arrest in an interview he gave to the Russian state-controlled RT network.
It is hard for a Venezuelan citizen to feel any modicum of pity towards Saab’s “inhumane conditions,” as he is, basically, getting a taste of what the majority of the country here has to go through every day courtesy of the socialist regime — especially over the past decade. It’s hard to feel bad about his weight loss because, thanks to the socialist regime he works for, three out of four Venezuelans lost an average of 19 pounds in 2016, and getting three meals per day here is something not everyone gets to afford these days. The same goes for health and access to medicine, hygiene, and every other aspect of our lives down here. While Maduro’s regime laments Saab’s weight loss, the weight loss of millions of Venezuelans became one of Maduro’s favorite punchlines. “Maduro’s diet gets you hard – no need for Viagra!” he said in one of his accustomed televised broadcasts.
Despite all of the efforts undertaken by Socialist regime of Venezuela, and despite the fact that a court belonging to the Economic Community of West African States instructed Cape Verde to cease all of Saab’s extradition proceedings, the Supreme Court of Cape Verde ruled to allow the extradition of Alex Saab to the United States. As his impending extradition is closer with each passing day, the socialist regime of Venezuela reminded Saab not to cooperate with the U.S. government, out of tangible fear for what he may divulge.
While all that money, time, and effort to create the false narrative of a heroic Schindler-esque Alex Saab did not have the expected results, it serves as evidence of how this socialist regime will twist and bend context to suit its needs. They’ve been doing it for more than twenty years now, and they certainly don’t care if this exposes their actions any further, because, if I may paraphrase a common saying here, who’s going to notice a new stripe on a tiger? Their reputation can’t really get any worse.
The saga of Alex Saab, the corrupt Colombian businessman sold as a hero of the Bolivarian Revolution to the world, will continue in the courts of the State of Florida once his extradition takes place.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.