Venezuelan authorities are allowing at least ten Americans to travel to the United States in exchange for the Americans’ release of an ally of President Maduro. It’s about Colombian businessman Alex Sapp, who was pardoned by President Biden. Maduro welcomed him on his arrival in Venezuela.
Saab was arrested in 2020 in the Cape Verde Islands at the request of the Americans, when he stopped with his private plane for refueling. A year later he was extradited to the United States. He is suspected of involvement in contracts for President Maduro in the United States, corruption, theft of public funds and money laundering.
According to the White House, Biden made the decision to release “not lightly.” Saab’s release is seen as a victory for Maduro. The businessman had not yet been convicted, but it seemed unlikely that he would return to Venezuela.
Ten Americans will be returned to the United States. Fugitive businessman Leonard Francis was also handed over to the US. He has pleaded guilty to embezzlement in the US Navy. He escaped from house arrest and fled to Venezuela, where he was arrested. At least twenty domestic opposition figures are also published by Venezuela.
Relations between oil-rich Venezuela and the United States have cooled significantly over the past year. Under President Maduro’s rule, the country entered a deep economic and political crisis, resulting in millions of refugees. Additionally, there has been a lot of criticism for Maduro’s authoritarian rule and electoral fraud in the 2018 presidential elections.
But the relationship seems to be improving little by little. The Venezuelan government has promised that next year’s elections will be fair and severe economic sanctions have been eased. The White House has said in recent weeks that it wants to see progress from Venezuela in the process of organizing fair elections.
For example, Venezuela had until November 30 to lift a ban on the participation of some opposition members, but that has yet to happen. Along with the prisoner exchange, the Americans hope to continue dialogue with Venezuela.
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