Venezuela Arrests Dissidents, Including an American, After Biden Lifts Sanctions in Exchange for ‘Free’ Elections

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gives a speech during the closing campaign on Ve
AP Photo/Matias Delacroix

CARACAS, Venezuela — The socialist regime arrested a group of Venezuelan opposition members on Thursday, accusing them of “treason” and “conspiring” against a recent referendum to annex a region consisting of most of Guyana.

The regime of socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro confirmed the arrest of at least one American citizen, identified as Savoi Jandon Wright, in the sweeping crackdown on dissent. Wright was reportedly arrested in October and stands accused of being part of an alleged conspiracy against the socialist regime.

The crackdown occured less than two months after the Biden Administration granted a generous sanctions relief package to the Maduro regime in exchange for vague promises of holding a “free and fair” presidential election sometime in 2024. So far, there are no indications that next year’s election will be free or fair – and no indication the Biden administration will reinstate the sanctions lifted.

President Joe Biden speaks Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Pueblo, Colo. (Jack Dempsey/AP)

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced on Wednesday that the Venezuelan men and women arrested are allegedly part of a “national and international” conspiracy against Venezuela. Saab claimed that the alleged plot was being financed by American oil company ExxonMobil.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office on the occasion of the findings has requested the arrest warrants in relation to this plot of financing and conspiracy related to ExxonMobil against Venezuela to torpedo and attempt to fracture the sovereign struggle of our people for the Essequibo,” Saab said on Wednesday.

The Essequibo is a disputed region currently administered by the government of Guyana but long claimed by Venezuela; it represents about two-thirds of the area of the territory of Guyana. Guyana took control of the region following an agreement in 1899 that Venezuelans have disputed for over a century.

An infographic titled ‘”Disputed Essequibo region” between Venezuela and Guyana created in Istanbul, Turkey on December 7, 2023. (Efnan Ipsir/Anadolu via Getty)

Guyana recently discovered oil deposits in the region and brokered a deal with ExxonMobil to exploit the resource, outraging Maduro.

The alleged financing for the conspiracy, Saab claimed, came from “the laundering of assets of international organizations and foreign companies such as ExxonMobil.”

“Such financing was materialized through crypto-assets in charge of Damian Merlo, former US telecommunications businessman and former foreign policy advisor, linked to Donald Trump and adviser to Nayib Bukele,” the Venezuelan Public Ministry statement on the arrests read.

Saab also claimed that, according to the regime’s “investigations,” Wright, who is currently in police custody in Venezuela, used “cryptocurrencies and large sums in cash to evade financial controls” to allegedly finance actions against the regime’s sham referendum election.

According to Saab, the men and women arrested maintained “economic relations” with Wright. The arrested were identified as Henry Alviárez, Pedro Urruchurtu, and Claudia Macero. All three are part of Vente Venezuela, the nation’s only mainstream center-right party, led by María Corina Machado, the likely – yet presently banned – candidate against socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro in 2024’s “free and fair” presidential election.

A third man, Roberto Abdul, was also arrested as part of the crackdown, and is being accused of being part of the conspiracy plot. Abdul was a member of the commission that organized the opposition’s primary election process in October. The Maduro regime claims that the primary was fraudulent and opened an investigation after the nation’s regime-controlled courts issued a ruling to “nullify” its effects.

“All of them will be charged with the crimes of treason, conspiracy, money laundering, and criminal association,” Saab said.

The arrests are part of a broader list of 14 arrest warrants issued against dissidents of the socialist regime, the majority of whom are currently living in exile abroad. 

The list includes former interim President Juan Guaidó and “opposition” leaders Leopoldo López, Carlos Vecchio, and Julio Borges, among others. Rafael Ramírez, who served as Hugo Chávez’s oil minister and is currently living in Italy, is also being accused of being part of the alleged conspiracy.

Machado responded to Saab’s accusations and the arrest of members of her party in a brief Wednesday press conference.

“I will say it again. Our route is a route of citizen organization. It is a route that leads us to the realization of free and competitive presidential elections. All the members of this organization are committed to it, as you know,” Machado said. “And what is happening is a desperate regime that knows it is defeated. And if they think that with this they are going to create fear, dismay, demoralization or demobilization, it is the opposite.”

”Henry Alviarez, Claudia Macero, and Pedro Urruchurtu are members of the national leadership of Vente and have all our support that of the Venezuelan society,” she asserted.

Socialist henchman and suspected drug lord Diosdado Cabello claimed on Wednesday evening that there are more people involved in the alleged plot against the sham Essequibo referendum, alluding that more names will be added to the list.

“Here there is a crowd missing, I think; they are money launderers, money coming from who knows what and they want to launder it in Venezuela with campaigns,” he said.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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