Venezuela government halts talks with opposition after Maduro envoy extradited to US

The Venezuelan government is halting talks with the country’s U.S.-backed opposition in Mexico City following the extradition of an envoy for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to the U.S. Saturday. 

Jorge Rodriguez, head of the government’s negotiating team and member of the Socialist party, said the country would not attend the talks set to happen in Mexico on Saturday, Reuters reported

Alex Saab, who is facing money laundering charges, was extradited after he was detained in Cape Verde in June 2020.

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A senior U.S. official confirmed the reports to The Associated Press saying Saab was on a chartered Justice Department flight to the U.S.

The money laundering charges Saab faces are in connection to an alleged bribery scheme he took part in that allowed him to use a low-income housing project in Venezuela to make $350 million.

Although the Cape Verde’s Constitutional Court approved the extradition in September, Venezuela and other allies such as Cuba and Russia have previously denounced the arrest as illegal, according to the AP.

“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 Venezuelan government said in a statement, calling the extradition “kidnapping.”

Rodriguez decried the extradition and charges, saying backing out of the negotiations was  "an expression of our deepest protest against the brutal aggression against the person and the investiture of our delegate Alex Saab Moran."

Saab has been on the U.S. radar for years as they believe he knows how Maduro and others gained millions of dollars through government housing projects while Venezuelans have been struggling, the AP noted. 

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Saab was previously sanctioned by the U.S. government for allegedly using government-run food programs to form a corruption network to make money, according to Reuters.

After the announcement of Saab’s extradition occurred, two sources and family members told Reuters Venezuela took six American oil executives from Citigo on house arrest and it is unclear if they are going back to jail.

The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

Updated: 9:14 p.m.