• Venezuela U.S. Releases Maduro's Alleged Front Man Alex Saab in Prisoner Swap Between Washington and Caracas

"I thought you were going to forget me there," the newcomer told the president in a light voice after hugging him. "Never, never, neither in these lives nor in all the lives to come," Nicolas Maduro responded. The first words in Caracas of the Colombian tycoon Alex Saab thanked the three and a half years of relentless struggle of the "people's president" to recover the main financial operator of Chavismo and his alleged front man, according to the accusation made by the former Venezuelan Prosecutor's Office, which could not be brought to trial.

The multiple exchange of prisoners in exchange for Saab, agreed by the governments of Venezuela and the United States, closed yesterday with the release of 10 Americans and twenty Venezuelans, including the last political prisoner (Roberto Abdul, one of the organizers of the historic opposition primaries) and three very close collaborators of the opposition leader. María Corina Machado, protected in a European embassy after her arrest warrant.

Events followed one another at breakneck speed, despite the fact that it has taken months to materialize since Qatar hosted a meeting between the two sides to pave the way. The exchange took place on one of the Caribbean islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The details are enough to understand the importance given to Saab by the hierarchs of Chavismo. Maduro received him at the foot of the palace; Cilia Flores, his wife andthe first revolutionary fighter, picked him up at the airport and escorted him to Miraflores, and Jorge Rodríguez, head of the negotiating delegation, went to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to put him on his plane. The eulogy of the live broadcast surpassed even the daily hyperbole. An example: "The people escort him by loving him." No one was to be seen on the streets.

The U.S. group that has returned to their country includes six political prisoners, including Airan Berry and Luke Denman, the two former Green Berets who participated in the failed Operation Gideon landing in 2020, and four more people, including one persecuted by U.S. authorities. This is the controversial businessman Fat Leonard, author of a famous scam to the US Navy, who was arrested at the Caracas airport when he escaped from his country in the direction of Singapore. Several of them have denounced torture of all kinds, and not only Gideon's so-called mercenaries.

"Hopefully we will continue this process of understanding and respect, today a step has been taken," Maduro addressed President Joe Biden, with Saab and his entourage as witnesses. A full-fledged diplomatic victory for Maduro that also endorses the Barbados agreements between the government and the opposition.

Speaking to the media in Milwaukee, the Democratic president pointed out that "it seems that Maduro, so far, is maintaining his commitment to hold free elections. It's not done yet, there's a long way to go. But so far so good."

In Venezuela, the beneficiaries of the swap left the prisons in different batches. The first political prisoners to take to the streets were the six trade union leaders imprisoned in the police detention centre of La Yaguara. With Emilio Negrín, leader of the National Trade Union Coalition, and Alcides Bracho, a militant of the Marxist Red Flag, they were sentenced to 16 years in prison for conspiracy, after promoting the labor protests last year. They were in prison for 500 days.

"It was by surprise, with a lot of fright and a lot of fear they took us out this morning to an office. We don't know what legal status we're in," said an emotional Negrín, who, like his companions, was dressed in the yellow clothes of a prisoner.

  • Venezuela
  • Elections Venezuela
  • Nicolas Maduro
  • United States
  • Joe Biden