Venezuela said Saturday it would halt talks with the country's opposition in retaliation for the extradition to the US of a close ally of President Nicolás Maduro wanted on money laundering charges.
The announcement came hours after businessman Alex Saab was put on a US-bound plane in Cape Verde after failing in a 16-month fight to prevent his extradition to face money laundering charges in Miami. Saab was arrested in the African archipelago while making a stop on the way to Iran for what Maduro’s government later described as a diplomatic humanitarian mission.
US prosecutors say Saab amassed a fortune wheeling and dealing on behalf of the socialist government, which faces heavy US sanctions.
American authorities have been targeting Saab for years, believing he holds numerous secrets about how Maduro, the president's family and his top aides siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts for food and housing amid widespread hunger in oil-rich Venezuela.
However, his defenders, including Maduro's government as well as allies Russia and Cuba, consider his arrest illegal and maintain that Saab was a diplomatic envoy of the Venezuelan.
“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela repudiates this grave violation of human rights against a Venezuelan citizen, invested as a diplomat and representative of our country before the world,” the statement said.
Report by AP