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Venezuela's government halts talks after ally extradition

Nicolle Yapur, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Venezuela’s government pulled out of a round of negotiations with the political opposition set to begin on Sunday in Mexico to protest the extradition of a close ally of President Nicolas Maduro to the U.S.

“The government is suspending its participation in the negotiation and dialogue roundtable,” Jorge Rodriguez, president of the government-controlled National Assembly and chief of the government delegation, said on Saturday. “We will not be attending the round that was set to start tomorrow in Mexico City.”

Colombian businessman Alex Saab was sent on a plane to the U.S. on Saturday, after spending over a year fighting extradition in the courts of Cape Verde, where he was detained. Saab, who faces money laundering charges in a U.S. federal court in Florida, was recently added as a member of the Venezuelan government’s negotiation team.

“This inhumane action constitutes a new act of aggression by the U.S. against Venezuela,” Rodriguez said. He demanded that Saab be released immediately after the Maduro administration called the move a “kidnapping.”

Hours after Saab was put on a plane to Florida, Venezuela’s security forces picked up six Citgo Petroleum Corp. executives, who had been released in May to house arrest in what was widely perceived as peace gesture to the U.S. A Venezuelan judge sentenced them to as many as 13 years in prison on corruption charges in November 2020. All but one of the executives are U.S. citizens.

Venezuelan intelligence police transferred the executives to their headquarters, lawyers for the men said.

 

Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition, called the actions against the Citgo executives “an obvious reprisal” and criticized the government’s decision on the talks in a series of tweets late on Saturday.

“With the irresponsible suspension of their participation in Mexico, they are evading once again the attention that urgently needs to be given to this country,” Guaido said.

Gerardo Blyde, a member of the opposition’s delegation, said on Sunday in Mexico City that government representatives should return for the next round of talks, conceding that in-person negotiations were unlikely to take place this weekend.

Saab is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court at 1 p.m. on Monday in Miami, according to a U.S. Justice Department spokesperson.

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