Venezuela names US fugitive to team negotiating with foes

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is trying to add a new member to his team negotiating with his political opponents in Mexico – an aide jailed in Cape Verde awaiting extradition to the US on money laundering charges .

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Alex Saab will be included in the government delegation immediately, President of the National Assembly Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the Venezuelan team, announced Tuesday on Venezuelan state television.

Saab’s appointment is unlikely to have an immediate impact on his legal troubles. A week ago, Cape Verde’s Constitutional Court voted unanimously to dismiss his appeal of an earlier court decision that approved his extradition to face federal charges in Miami.

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But the Maduro government’s decision to embrace the fugitive is likely to hang on dialogue efforts that were already facing major hurdles after bitter street fighting in Venezuela.

There was no immediate comment from the Venezuelan opposition.

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Saab, a Colombian businessman originally from Colombia, was arrested in June 2020 after his private jet intercepted a refueling en route to Iran in Cape Verde, in what the Venezuelan government described as a humanitarian mission.

US officials believe they have many secrets about how Maduro, the president’s family and his top aides allegedly rigged millions of dollars in government contracts amid widespread hunger in oil-rich Venezuela.

Maduro’s government has opposed his arrest as illegal, claiming that Saab was a diplomatic envoy and therefore exempted from prosecution at an official mission.

The talks, which began a month ago in Mexico, are aimed at resolving the South American country’s long-standing political dispute. The sessions are being sponsored by Norway, with Russia and the Netherlands playing a supporting role.

As part of the negotiating effort, the opposition – which refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s administration with US backing – has agreed to run in regional elections due later this year.

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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