On Sunday, October 16, the negotiating team representing the government of Nicolás Maduro announced that it would not participate in the round of talks set to take place in Mexico City from October 17 to 20. The decision came after it was announced that Alex Saab, a Colombian-born businessman and close Maduro ally accused of money-laundering, was extradited to the United States from Cape Verde, where he had been in custody since June 2020.

On October 8, the Norwegian embassy in Mexico had announced that the opposition and government negotiating teams would meet on October 17 for the fourth round of talks since the process began in August. However, following the October 16 extradition of Saab—whom the Maduro government had sought to incorporate into its negotiating team—the chief government negotiator, Jorge Rodríguez, stated that the government would pull out of this round of talks, potentially jeopardizing the entire negotiation process. Saab, who made his first court appearance in Miami on Monday, is under U.S. sanctions and was indicted by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice on corruption and money laundering charges in 2019. The Maduro government claims that Saab should enjoy diplomatic immunity as a representative of the Venezuelan government, and regarded the extradition as a “brutal aggression” by the U.S., though government officials fell short of saying that they would pull out of the negotiation process altogether. Head of the opposition negotiating team Gerardo Blyde urged the Maduro government to resume dialogue as soon as possible.

A few hours after the news broke of Saab’s extradition, the Venezuelan security forces moved six oil executives known as the “Citgo 6” back to el Helicoide prison in Caracas. In May, the Maduro government released the Citgo 6 (U.S. citizens who have been detained in Venezuela on corruption charges since 2017) to house arrest in a move widely interpreted as a sign of good faith to engage with the Biden administration. The six men have long denied the charges against them.

Numerous governments have lamented the Maduro government’s decision to pull out of the latest round of negotiations. The Norwegian government stated that it would keep working to encourage both sides to seek solutions to the country’s political crisis. Representatives of governments including Spain and the UK expressed their disappointment with the decision, and urged the negotiating teams to return to the table. The Russian embassy in Venezuela denounced the extradition of Alex Saab and regarded it as a “kidnapping,” but the Russian Foreign Ministry separately issued a statement calling on the negotiating teams to continue dialogue. During a news conference in Ecuador, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarded the move to suspend negotiations as “deeply unfortunate” and maintained that the extradition of Alex Saab was unrelated to U.S. support for a democratic transition in Venezuela.

More politics:


Human Rights