It’s time to resume thinking of scenarios around the increasingly possible extradition of Alex Saab from Cape Verde to the U.S., now that the African archipelago’s Supreme Court approved the extradition. While Saab’s defense finds another way to postpone the event, it seems unlikely that Maduro’s fixer could avoid an American jail. Actually, he just said he wouldn’t make a deal, as part of the propaganda efforts launched by the Maduro regime.
Saab’s likely to cut a deal with prosecutors. The question is what can he deliver in exchange for a shorter sentence, and how that information can alter the current state of things, where the opposition is in shambles and the government looks totally sure of controlling the next elections for governors and mayors, and to extract from possible negotiations some sanction relief.
One of Alex Saab’s obstacles to make a deal with prosecutors in the U.S. is the degree to which Maduro & Co. will control his attorneys, and to what degree can the regime punish him if he collaborates with the U.S. On the first issue, we can recall what happened with Maduro’s nephews: they were arrested by the U.S., didn’t collaborate with prosecutors, went to trial with lawyers paid by Wilmer Ruperti, another of Maduro’s fixers, and ended up getting an 18-year sentence. Maduro’s nephews had reasons besides family ties to remain loyal, as their partners and children remained in Venezuela, and they didn’t appear to have access to much personal wealth to afford their own U.S. attorneys, and support and protect their family going forward. We don’t know to what degree could the government control and punish Saab, a Colombian citizen who had only moved to Venezuela a couple of years ago to avoid arrest in Colombia, and might be able to separate himself from the regime, get his own lawyers and protect his family abroad from reprisals.
Meanwhile, Saab fits into a narrative according to which the efforts of the United States to put pressure on the government are having a real effect in the common population. A narrative that the government, apart from the “Free Alex Saab” campaigns, has been pushing more through action than with its discourse. The heavy rationing of diesel which, in consequence, causes interruptions in the food production and distribution chains, feeds the narrative with little effort. But in reality, as we’ve been tracking with our energy team for months, Venezuela has been providing Cuba with large, periodic quantities of fuel (including gasoline, diesel, JET A1 fuel, and fuel oil for the Felton power plant) even during the worst moments of fuel shortages. Cuba is running on Venezuelan energy. There’s no doubt that Maduro has been managing the crisis at his convenience, the government has the ability to control the degree of impact of the crisis on the population, which is key during an election year.
Meanwhile, our PRR sources report that public employees working diligently to destroy incriminatory import orders and other documents related to Saab’s corruption network in several ministries in Caracas in the last few days, by request of former ministers who oversaw these deals. More in the full report.
Also in the full report…
Rehashing the good old platform: Juan Guaidó and the G4 are expected to relaunch the opposition coalition in a new—or reformed—political and civic organization, a direct result of the talks held by opposition figures in Bogotá a few weeks ago, and demands by their international allies for the opposition to come together under one organization. The new platform would work towards achieving free and fair elections through domestic and international pressure. Read more in the full report.
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