Before and After Alex Saab – Maduro’s Kingpin

Citizens in Caracas, Venezuela, walk by a billboard of support for businessman Alex Saab. Photo: Miguel Gutierrez / EFE

The Saab case shows that Maduro’s brand of Chavism has lost the capacity to create heroes, no matter how many resources they invest.

By Miguel Henrique Otero (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – On Venezuela’s National Radio and state-run television station, and over dozens and dozens of stations scattered throughout the national territory – all either the direct property or under the control of the Maduro regime – a sequence of lies are repeated endlessly. For months, these messages have gone out over innumerable broadcasts, most of them conducted by fanatics, plugged in and ignorants. The sequence goes:

  1. That Alex Saab is a revolutionary political fighter.
  2. That he was exercising diplomatic functions on behalf of Venezuela.
  3. That he’d been abducted by United States imperialism and his detention was related to the blockade and the economic warfare.
  4. That they plan to punish him for being a revolutionary and for his commitment to Venezuela and “the legacy of our eternal commander, Hugo Chavez”.
  5. That the international pressure and solidarity of the world’s countries would soon make possible his liberation.

There’s yet more: a spokesperson for the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela stated in June that they had already prepared the “people’s celebration” for receiving him upon his return to Venezuela, since his release was “imminent”.

Each one of the links in this chain of affirmations is completely false. Alex Saab is nothing but a criminal. A serial criminal. The long list of crimes he’s accused of leaves no room for doubt: conspiracy to commit criminal acts; illicit enrichment; laundering of money and assets from drug trafficking; creation of shell companies in a number of countries; fraudulent procurement of official Venezuelan contracts; corrupt operations as a contractor for the Housing Mission of the Local Supply and Production Committees; embezzlement using the money-changing mechanism of Venezuela’s National Center for Foreign Commerce; and much more. Venezuelan lawyer and former Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz has accused him of operating as Maduro’s front man.

There are still other relevant details. Some of these crimes, especially those related to the food imports, have had terrible consequences for Venezuelans’ health. They’ve contributed to the nutritional deterioration of a population that depended on and still depends on the publicly distributed food packages to survive.

In a number of articles published in 2019 and 2020, I’ve made reference to the denunciations that the food packages have contained food of the very lowest quality: expired items, contaminated items, and even some with insects. An undetermined percentage of the distributed foodstuffs didn’t meet the minimum necessary conditions for their use by human beings. However, their denunciations met no response from those in power – this issue didn’t hold the least interest for the regime’s Public Prosecutor. The quality didn’t matter, and the food supplies continued being distributed to hundreds of thousands of families facing hunger.

Saab’s extradition marks a milestone for a lot of reasons. First of all, it marks the complete failure of the regime’s strategy. They’ve desperately attempted to politicize Saab’s image, disguise him as a revolutionary and – by constructing a fake biography for him – to present him within and outside of Venezuela as a political prisoner, a diplomat in service who’s been unjustly imprisoned.

The regime has not only invested in lawyers, but also in publicity campaigns and activism on social media. They’ve used these tactics to create the myth of a social warrior, but it’s all been in vain. They spent money on fostering adulation through pamphlets, publicity and some tawdry public activities which very few people attended, mostly those who were obligated by links of dependency to the regime. They even managed to get some deputies, who were supposedly from the opposition, to travel and issue letters certifying the criminal’s good conduct.

That touches the heart of what I’m referring to: the Saab case demonstrates that Chavism-Madurism has lost the ability to construct heroes. No matter how many resources they invest from now on, they won’t be heeded, because the immense majority recognizes in that operation the scent of falsehood. And when I say the majority, I include in the category what’s left of the ruling United Socialist Party, ever less inclined to serve as padding for policies that aim to cover up or legitimize the corrupt.

The other thing that has changed since the inception of Saab’s indictment in the United States, is the perspective of the opportunists and the connected. These were betting that Saab would never be extradited [from Cabo Verde where he was being held], and that the territory for continuing to evade the sanctions and for conducting illicit business with the regime under supposed guarantees of impunity would remain open. Those illicit businesses produce immense earnings in very short periods of time.

Those promises have crumbled. The suppliers of rotten food, food approaching its expiration date and sold at scandalously high prices – that is, those aspiring to challenge the monopoly that Alex Saab maintained – are now crying for conditions that the regime can’t guarantee them.

Any reader might summarize this with the question: What can explain the regime’s outsized, grotesque and at bottom pathetic campaign to free Alex Saab and clear his international record? Why have they invested so much effort, diplomacy, money and time in this? There’s basically one reason: they aren’t a hundred percent sure that the prisoner will remain silent.

They know that Saab, in the end, isn’t a revolutionary, a man of sacrifices, but an unscrupulous businessman, willing to do anything. If Saab should talk, what will come out of his confession would be nothing less than the greatest embezzlement in history, leveraging the hunger of millions of people. Also, if he talks, the rest of his associates might be occupying a place together with Saab, in one of the cells very near his.

*Article originally posted in El Nacional of Venezuela.

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2 thoughts on “Before and After Alex Saab – Maduro’s Kingpin

  • Wait. Wasn’t Saab kidnapped in Cabo Verde by that paragon of human rights and the rule of law ?

  • I find the description of Hugo Chavez as “eternal ” commander confusing. Did they actually mean infernal?

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