Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Alex Saab, Cape Verde and Washington

4 min read

Reports indicate talks between Venezuela’s government and opposition, held in Mexico City, are moving in the right direction. The two sides’ “positions moved closer in the search for solutions to the challenges in social, economic and political matters,” said a statement read by Norwegian Mediator Dag Nylander.

Details have not been released, yet there is a real belief that the negotiating parties are working towards an inclusive peaceful conclusion. President Nicolas Maduro’s government delegates are pushing for the lifting of foreign economic sanctions, while the opposition wants guarantees of fair regional elections scheduled to take place throughout the country in November.

Although President Maduro is not personally at the talks, these challenging negotiations have huge stakes in play. Key for the Venezuelan people is being able to access basic resources currently denied due to the economic sanctions which many in President Maduro’s camp point out the United Nations refers to as “illegal sanctions” imposed by the United States.

A further damning indictment was recently offered in a Senate hearing by Senator Chris Murphy when addressing U.S. State Department Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, “all we did was play all our cards on day one, and it didn’t work. And it’s just been an embarrassing mistake after mistake since.”

The role of Cape Verde in this multiparty diplomatic scene is even further proof for many in President Maduro’s camp of the political nature of the US’s putsch against Venezuela. Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab is currently detained in Cape Verde awaiting extradition after losing his latest appeal against extradition in the Constitutional Court in Cape Verde on 7 September. Saab has been held since 12 June 2020, despite the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruling on 15 March and again on 24 June that his detention was illegal and arbitrary and that he be released immediately. In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the African Union and several international states, including African countries, have also called on Cape Verde to release Saab. Cape Verde’s detention of Alex Saab has been described by some observers as being “worse than that which might be meted out to a prisoner-of-war.”

Experts believe Cape Verde is openly violating international law, human rights and even domestic law having decided that promised investment flow from the United Sates is more important to it than the adherence to treaty obligations. A promised $400m in investment by the United States in the country is alleged by many to be compensation in return for Cape Verde agreeing to detain and extradite the diplomat Alex Saab. In a recent poll, 65% of Cape Verdeans surveyed supported this view. “Cape Verde relies heavily on foreign capital and remittances from the diaspora as the flows generated by the Cape Verdean economy have never been sufficient to finance its development” commented Carla Monteiro, of Carla Monteiro & Associates a Cape Verde law firm. She added “Due to various constraints such as the lack of natural resources, the trade balance deficit and the size and division of the territory any promise of inward flows will be grabbed with both hands”

The immediate release of Saab has become a pan-African cause celebre. The ECOWAS Court of Justice, the African Union and many neighboring countries of lined up against Cape Verde which leaves it facing serious political and reputational challenges. Many believe their current stance to be a power play by the United States using the country as a pawn in a three-dimensional game of chess with regime change in Venezuelan at all costs being the US’s ultimate goal.

Reliable sources are also pointing fingers at Cape Verde’s Minister of Interior, Paulo Rocha, of tipping a once democratic country to a near “pariah state”. Sources close to the government of Cape Verde recently reported that Rocha met with the outgoing President, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, undermining President Fonseca’s authority by claiming that he Rocha “has been in charge of the Alex Saab matter from day one and I am not giving up” and that Fonseca should focus on “a graceful exit rather than meddling with political matters that do not concern him. Rocha is regarded by many political observers in Cape Verde as the “Americans enforcer and man on the inside” and some going as far as to describe him as “a spy with a sadistic personality.”

Another example of Rocha’s influence is cited by sources on the island of Sal who say he recently made a visit there to directly order the National Police guarding Alex Saab to ensure that “under no circumstances Saab gets moved to Praia.” This being in relation to a 31 August ruling from the Barlavento Court of Appeal authorizing Saab’s move to the capital where he can receive better medical attention given that he is a cancer patient. This represents “[A] clear and obvious abuse of power, abuse of process and obstruction of justice,” according to a source close to the government.

Many are asking just what is it that motivates Rocha to behave in this way. Just what is it that the US has on him? Money laundering? Corruption? Narco-trafficking?

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