Cape Verde issued preventive detention this week to Alex Saab, arrested in mid-June when he landed on a private plane in the archipelago after an Interpol red alert was issued. It is the first step to begin the extradition process of the man who has been designated as a front man for Nicolás Maduro by the United States. But the fate of Alex Saab, who has generated deep concern in the ranks of Chavismo, has not yet been written. The process could take a few weeks and requires a formal request from Washington that must be made within 18 days and whose approval will be decided by a court. The businessman, a Colombian national, is in the custody of the Judicial Police in Sal, one of the Cape Verde islands.
“Cape Verde does not have a bilateral extradition agreement with the United States, but it is linked to the United Nations conventions that oblige it to comply with the request, if it is done,” José Landim, the attorney general for that country, explained to the press. local. However, Saab can appeal the decision and in that case the lapses would change. Time plays in favor of the one who, according to the accusations, has been the contractor most favored by the Venezuelan regime and who faces charges in two United States courts – where he was included in the call. Clinton list together with his partner Álvaro Pulido- and in Colombia, accused of being a financial operator of the Chavista leader and his wife, Cilia Flores. That role of operator became even more essential after the sanctions imposed on Venezuelan officials. The extradition appears uncertain not only because of the circumstances of the arrest but also because of the extensive network of power and the lobby that Venezuela is exercising to prevent it.
Chavismo has managed on other occasions to deter arrests of key figures in its government. In 2014, former intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal, with accusations for drug trafficking and terrorism, managed to escape an arrest by the DEA in Aruba, where he traveled because he would serve as consul although he still did not have the credentials. After four days of pressure, the Netherlands released him, he returned to the country and was received like a hero by Nicolás Maduro. Last year, already politically separated from Maduro, Carvajal was again arrested in Spain and awaiting extradition in house arrest, he managed to escape and is currently a fugitive.
The fears that the same thing will happen with Saab, manifested especially in the opposition ranks, have precedent. The energetic protest of the regime to his arrest has shown how important the businessman is to Maduro. After keeping him in the shadows for years, but after the food import business for the CLAP program, medicines and the handling of gold, coal and oil, Caracas reacted by declaring him as a Venezuelan citizen and an agent of his Government, with diplomatic prerogatives in a humanitarian mission. He also mobilized his allies, especially Russia, to mediate the arrest, journalistic versions have ensured. The case has now entered the lengthy geopolitical struggle between Washington and Caracas.
Despite his low profile, the press in Venezuela, Colombia and the United States have investigated him thoroughly since at least 2015. Born in the Colombian city of Barranquilla, 48 years old, he began his business life selling promotional keyrings and work uniforms. In those years he met his partner Álvaro Pulido – who was called Germán Rubio until 2001 and faced a conviction for drug trafficking in the United States – with whom he began exporting merchandise to Venezuela, taking advantage of the exchange control implemented in 2003, the great centrifuge of corruption. Saab, which multiplied its businesses during Maduro’s mandate, which began in 2013, fully entered the leadership of Chavismo. Former Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba, close to former President Hugo Chávez, facilitated that relationship, according to the accusations.
Former Colombian presidents Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe Vélez took the opportunity to attack Juan Manuel Santos for the images of the signing of a contract in which Saab appears, but the former president clarified in an interview in the newspaper Time that he did not know who this businessman was. The siege around Saab, in any case, was tightening from the end of 2018, when it had to leave Colombia due to the investigations that the justice was following. That same year, the Mexican Prosecutor’s Office seized merchandise for the CLAPs for the payment of surcharges for low-quality food. Already the research portal Armando Info had revealed in research that the product they sold as milk was high in sodium and harmful for children. In July 2019 came the formal accusations in the US for laundering 350 million dollars between 2011 and 2015 from Venezuela, then the sanctions of the Office for the Control of Assets Abroad, which were followed by more seizures of assets that it had in Italy with his wife, the Italian model Camilla Fabri and last week in Barranquilla. Eleven months passed until his arrest.