Above Photo: Venezuelans march against US sanctions and for the release of Alex Saab in Morón. Roi Lopez Rivas via Twitter.
The Venezuelan diplomat has been illegally detained since 2020, a victim of the US hybrid war against Venezuela.
On August 2, hundreds of social and human rights organizations around the world sent an open letter to US President Joe Biden, calling for the release of imprisoned Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab. The signatories include two Nobel Peace Prize winners, the Tunisian League for Human Rights and Alfonso Perez Esquivel, as a member of the Observatory of Human Rights of the Peoples. Other signatories include the National Lawyers Guild in the US, the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) of Brazil, and Argentina’s Frente Patria Grande.
The letter urges Biden to consider Saab’s health conditions, as he is “not receiving medical attention, despite being a cancer survivor and having reported several ailments, including vomiting blood.” The letter recommends a prisoner swap of Saab in exchange for US citizens currently detained in Venezuela. “This would not only highlight the execution of the commitment to bring home American citizens, but would also ratify the compliance of the United States of America with international law,” the letter states.
The letter continues, “Through this exchange we are confident that we can put an end to the pain of the family members and it is also a step that will allow us to move towards understanding between the United States and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
According to Venezuelan journalist and filmmaker Nancy Carolina Graterol, the case of the US-led detention and illegal extradition of Alex Saab, “sends a clear message to the international community that nothing is out of bounds, not even the rights and protection normally assigned to diplomats.”
Saab was illegally detained in Cape Verde in June of 2020 while performing the role of Special Envoy to Venezuela. He was arrested by Cape Verdean authorities at the request of the US District Court of Florida. The US presented eight charges against Saab, seven of which were later dropped. The only remaining charge, one of money laundering, carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
On July 2021, the Working Group against Torture and several UN rapporteurs drew attention to Saab’s declining health condition. Saab’s family doctor had visited him in detention in Cape Verde and reported various health issues as well as signs of torture. These included anemia, anorexia, diabetes mellitus type two, hypothyroidism, hypertension, high risk of thromboembolic disease including pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and evidence that Saab may have been experiencing a recurrence of cancer, which he is a survivor of. CODEPINK also reports that at the time, “Saab’s lower left molar was found to be broken from beatings” and that “his physician suggested that he access proper medical care; however, he never received the recommended treatment.”
Despite the obvious signs of torture, Saab was extradited to the United States on October 16, 2021.
According to CODEPINK, “His detention at the Federal Detention Center in Miami is even worse than it was in Cape Verde, as he is not allowed family visits, thus not being able to see his wife and children for over two years and eight months.” He has also been deprived of consular visits. “The US State Department has not responded to the Venezuelan State’s request to grant him a consular visit, as established in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” writes CODEPINK. As of April of this year, there are reports that Saab’s cancer has progressed, and as of March, despite Saab vomiting blood for weeks, the US has not provided him with medical attention.
The signatories of the letter point to the deteriorating diplomatic relationship between the US and Venezuela, which has been strained since the Latin American nation underwent a socialist process in 1999. In January 2019, the US sponsored a coup attempt against democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro by self-declared “president” Juan Guaidó. The US has since imposed numerous devastating sanctions against Venezuela, generating an international migrant crisis that has resulted in violations of the human rights of Venezuelan economic refugees.