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US criticizes Maduro for suspending dialogue with opposition over extradition of Alex Saab

US criticizes Maduro for suspending dialogue with opposition over extradition of Alex Saab

US criticizes Maduro for suspending dialogue with opposition over extradition of Alex Saab

The United States criticized Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday for suspending dialogue with the Washington-backed opposition, saying that he puts the case of his noted front man Alex Saab, extradited to Miami accused of money laundering, above the future “of millions”.

The Maduro regime “is putting its interests, once again, above the interests of the Venezuelan people,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“They are putting the case of an individual above welfare, above the livelihood of the millions of Venezuelans who have made clear their aspirations for democracy,” he added.

Price stressed that the United States “continues to support” the negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition, which began in August and were to resume on Sunday in Mexico City.

“Nicolás Maduro must put an end to human rights abuses and must allow the Venezuelan people, his people, to participate in free and fair presidential, parliamentary, regional and local elections,” said the spokesman for US diplomacy.

Saab was extradited on Saturday from Cape Verde, where he had been arrested in June 2020 required by the US justice.

In July 2019, Saab was indicted by South Florida prosecutors for laundering in US banks more than $ 350 million obtained through Venezuelan government corruption schemes.

Maduro, whose legitimacy is contested by the United States and most Latin American and European countries for considering his re-election in 2018 fraudulent, reacted furiously and suspended dialogue with the Venezuelan Unitary Platform, which groups the opposition.

Price responded that the charges against Saab “are prior and have no relation” to the negotiations taking place in Mexico.

“It is often difficult for repressive, autocratic and undemocratic governments to understand … how we operate in this country and that is that our law enforcement is independent of politics,” Price said.

He also called on Venezuela to release six former executives of Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, all with US citizenship or residence, who were jailed again on Saturday when Saab’s extradition was known.

The six, sentenced to between eight and 13 years for corruption, had been under house arrest since April after being released from Helicoide in Caracas, the headquarters of the Venezuelan intelligence service.

“After having spent four years unjustly detained in Venezuela (…), they should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Price.

The so-called “Citgo six” were arrested in November 2017 and sentenced in 2020, under the protest of the Washington government.

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