Lawfare Against Venezuela: Three years after the kidnapping of the Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab

Alex Saab has become a pillar of Venezuela’s resilience and resistance

by  Álvaro Sánchez Cordero, Venezuelan Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago

“Dear Prime Minister, my name is Alex Nain Saab Morán and I have been illegally detained in your country for 57 days already, while I await the review of an unsubstantiated and politically motivated extradition request made by the United States. I am compelled to write to you given the great injustice that has been committed.”

Thus begins a letter written by Venezuelan Special Envoy and Deputy Ambassador to the African Union Alex Saab addressed to the Prime Minister of Cape Verde Ulises Correia e Silva on August 10, 2020, pleading him to reexamine his illegal detention. However, three years have passed since Alex Saab’s abduction in Cape Verde, and things seem to have only worsened, in spite of his brave contribution to the wellbeing of Venezuelans and the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing by Saab.

Notwithstanding his diplomatic immunity and the absence of an Interpol warrant, Alex Saab was conspicuously thrown in jail in Cape Verde on the 12th of June 2020, to the staggering disbelief of many decent and law-abiding people in Venezuela and around the world.

To fully grasp the illegality and unfairness of Saab’s abduction in Cape Verde – and later on his unlawful extradition to the United States – one must look at the vicious attacks inflicted by the United States against Venezuela, aiming at regime change, that have been formally taking place since 2015 when former US President Barack Obama preposterously decreed that Venezuela was as an unusual and extraordinary threat to the security of the United States. Let’s directly read some excerpts from US Government policy-makers, advisers and executioners who have called for “maximum pressure” against Venezuela.

In his book, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” former FBI Director Andrew McCabe said “that’s the country we should be going to war against [Venezuela]. They have all that oil, and they are right on our backdoor.”

Moreover, former US President Donald Trump recently stated that when he left office “Venezuela was ready to collapse. We would have taken it over. We would have gotten all that oil.” Although Trump hinted in 2017 that he would readily engage Venezuela militarily when he ominously said that all options were on the table, the reality is that the US has opted for more subtle but equally nefarious ways of causing havoc in Venezuela through hybrid and fourth generation warfare.

In his book “Treasury’s War,” Juan Zarate, chief architect of modern financial warfare and former US Treasure Department and White House Official, stated that “the US has waged a new brand of financial warfare, unprecedented in its reach and effectiveness.”

It is about blockading and sanctioning Venezuela to achieve US geopolitical objectives. As former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield put it: “We must see the Venezuelan situation as an agony, a tragedy that is going to continue to produce the end, and if we can do something to accelerating it, we must do it.”

US Presidential Advisor Richard Nephew’s statement: “The purpose of sanctioning is to generate pain,” which appears in his book “The Art of Sanctions,” clearly epitomizes the cruelty and evil intentions behind such actions.

Watch now: Statement by Oscar Lopez Rivera, former Puerto Rican political prisoner, on Alex Saab!

Consequently, Venezuelan people have had to endure and suffer the consequences of US regional designs regarding Venezuela. Indeed, American economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs from the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) delivered a report, which stated that an estimated 40,000 deaths in Venezuela between 2017 and 2018 were a result of US sanctions.

Furthermore, in 2021, UN Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, Dr. Alena Douhan, visited Venezuela and issued a report, where she explained that sanctions have had “a devastating effect on the entire population, especially those living in poverty, women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities or with life-threatening or chronic diseases, and the indigenous population. No strata of society has been untouched,” she concluded.

Interestingly, Dr. Douhan also explains in her report that “88% of households received supplementary food through ‘CLAP boxes’ in December 2020.” She adds that “the CLAP [Local Committees for Supply and Production] is a programme established by the [Venezuelan] Government in 2017 in response to sanctions and the related food scarcity.”

It was in this tragic context of meddling and protracted US sanctions and economic warfare against Venezuela that Alex Saab came into play. Specifically, Saab was key in the implementation of the CLAP programme in Venezuela, which as stated by the UN Special Rapporteur Douhan, made a substantial difference in safeguarding the Venezuelan population against sanctions.

Indeed, Alex Saab was diplomatically appointed Special Envoy in 2018 with the clear mandate to commercially and humanitarianly procure essential goods and services, mainly food for the CLAP programme, but also inputs, machinery and equipment needed to circumvent the near one thousand sanctions against Venezuela, which translated into the plummeting of annual Venezuelan revenues from 56 billion US dollars to just 700 million. That is a loss of close to 99 per cent of Venezuela’s real income.

As a seasoned entrepreneur and businessman, Alex Saab was the key person to perform this diplomatic job. In fact, in 2011, during the late President Hugo Chávez Government, Saab had rendered his services in the construction of social houses, known as Great Mission Venezuelan Housing, a flagship program of the Bolivarian Revolution that up until today has built more than 4 million of such social housing units.

Thus, Alex Saab engaged in a globe-trotting task to secure the much-needed food, medicines and equipment that would otherwise be denied to Venezuela. Let’s not forget that the abduction of Alex Saab occurred in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Even then, the US and other countries wittingly stopped Venezuela from gaining access to vaccines and other medical equipment.

Indeed, Alex Saab’s success was so resounding in acquiring key humanitarian goods and services for the Venezuelan people that the very powerful architects who were betting on Venezuela’s demise, were the ones who orchestrated his abduction in Cape Verde, where his aircraft stopped for refueling on its way to Iran.

As stated above, no Interpol warrant was issued at the moment of Alex Saab’s arrest, and when the Interpol belatedly issued one the following day, June 13th, 2020, it came under the name of a different person. Also, under articles 29 and 40 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats cannot be liable to any form of arrest or detention, not even if they are in transit in a third country, as was the case of Alex Saab when he stopped in Cape Verde.

But don’t hold your breath, on Christmas Eve of last year, in spite of all the evidence, a Miami Judge dismissed the diplomatic status of Alex Saab, even though former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper dispelled any doubts when he stated in his book “A Sacred Oath” that “at Maduro’s direction, Saab was reportedly on special assignment to negotiate a deal with Iran for Venezuela to receive more fuel, food and medical supplies.” There were further illegal procedures in Alex Saab’s abduction, especially in relation to his extradition to the US since there is no extradition treaty between Cape Verde and the US. In addition, Saab’s extradition took place without prior notification to his legal team.

On top of all that, Alex Saab has suffered violations of his human rights. He has been tortured and not allowed to see his medical doctors, even though he is a cancer patient. His wife and children have not been allowed to visit him either.

Based on these injustices and violations, the Justice Court of the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS), of which Cape Verde is a member, ruled that Cape Verde had to free Alex Saab, avoid his extradition and award him 200,000 US dollars in compensation for his wrongful arrest and detention. Nonetheless, Cape Verde disregarded all these binding decisions by ECOWAS.

The case of Alex Saab is a clear reflection of US contempt for International Law. Moreover, the application of US laws extraterritorially has disastrous consequences for multilateralism and the harmony of sovereign nations and their dealings with each other. More importantly, just like with Julian Assange, the US is ultimately sending signals to people and countries around the world that they would go to any length in order severely punish those who dare not to comply with their illegal, coercive and unilateral measures – as has been the case of Alex Saab – that have real life-threatening consequences on regular people all over the world.

As Alex Saab himself said in a letter to the People of Venezuela on August 12, 2021: “What happened to me today can happen to anyone tomorrow.”