Jorge Rodríguez, head of the Venezuelan government delegation in the dialogues taking place in Mexico with the opposition, announced that Chavismo decided to incorporate the Colombian businessman Álex Saab into the negotiation. Saab was detained in June 2020 in Cape Verde on an international arrest warrant due to charges imposed by the United States for money laundering. The opposition delegation expressed its dissatisfaction with the incorporation through a statement.
Tension at the negotiating table of the Venezuelan Government with the opposition. Through a statement in the National Assembly, Jorge Rodríguez, head of the delegation of the administration of President Nicolás Maduro, reported that Colombian businessman Álex Saab, imprisoned in Cape Verde since 2020, will be part of the dialogue.
“(The team) wants to inform public opinion of the decision to incorporate the Venezuelan diplomat Álex Saab as a full member of this delegation, of the Bolivarian government delegation,” Rodríguez announced.
The negotiator clarified that they want Saab to be part of the social table that was previously agreed between the parties in the second cycle of the dialogues.
The government and the opposition began talks in Mexico on August 13 and a third round of negotiations is expected to take place between September 24 and 27.
The Colombian businessman was arrested in 2020 when his plane made a stopover in Cape Verde as a response to the United States’ lawsuit through Interpol in which he was accused of money laundering and for allegedly being a front man for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
For the Chavista faction, in Saab’s arrest, “all international regulations” and “all human rights and the rights to due process” have been violated. In addition, they say that Saab is “kidnapped in an international prison” and alleges that the arrest was illegal because the businessman was on an “official mission”.
A few weeks ago, the Cape Verdean authorities declared Saab’s extradition request to the United States constitutional.
The opposition warns of political interests behind the announcement of the Maduro government
The determination intensified the tension between both parties. The opposition delegation, the Plataforma Unitaria de Venezuela, spoke in a statement. The opposition asked Norway, the country mediating the negotiations, “to guarantee compliance by the delegation of the regime with the agreed reserve rules that govern the process.”
In addition, they stressed that: “The announcement of the request for incorporation made today corresponds to a defense strategy of the regime before the judicial process between two countries with separation of powers and democracy, whose jurisdictional bodies follow an extradition process.”
The delegation was emphatic in saying that they will not accept “distractions” in the negotiation process and their main objective “a Comprehensive Agreement that gives us back democracy and the possibility of getting out of the immense social, economic and political crisis that affects us all. ”.
Following the announcement, the dialogues are expected to be affected, as Maduro has already been accused in the past of negotiating in “bad faith” and of taking advantage of formal talks to evade certain political pressure. The addition of Saab may generate more mistrust between the parties.
What is Chavismo looking for with the incorporation of Saab?
Chavismo’s decision opens up a variety of outcomes. As Oswaldo Ramírez, a political analyst, told France 24 one of the possibilities is that the Maduro government is looking for the opposition to leave the table. The incorporation could be considered as “an excuse for the Nicolás Maduro regime to stop the negotiation process.”
The same believes Pablo Quintero, political scientist, who also in dialogue with France 24 said that the Saab case represents “a strategy that was seen coming from the Government to force the delegation to get up from the table, I mean the delegation of the opposition”.
Ramírez believes that it may be that “what the Government is pursuing is for the Democratic Alternative to get up from the table and try to generate a veto for the presence of Álex Saab. Perhaps for them it can be a kind of easy way out, which puts the Unitary Platform in a relatively difficult situation ”.
Likewise, analysts point to the government’s interests in protecting Saab: “It is evident that Chavismo needs to protect it in some way. And they are willing to sacrifice any attempt at dialogue with the opposition in exchange for this man not stepping on the United States, “Quintero added.
For his part, Ramírez noted that Saab’s situation is critical and that this Tuesday “a preparatory hearing of evidence is being held in Colombia, in the city of Barranquilla, on the crimes of evasion of tax and customs responsibilities and trying to see those issues associated with the crimes of money laundering, illicit enrichment, conspiracy to commit a crime and fictitious exports. So, we are in the presence of a situation that can complicate this negotiating table ”.
Now, Quintero also explained that the failure of the negotiations could weaken the opposition and even divide it. “An opposition that returns to Venezuela with nothing to present to its electorate in the face of the November 21 elections is a weaker, more fractured opposition,” said Quintero, who also pointed out that this can lead to disappointment in the electorate.
Many possible scenarios remain, but the big question, the political scientist concluded, is whether Norway will accept the inclusion of Saab. Ramírez also emphasized that the Unitary Platform must handle the situation with great prudence.
With ., AP and .