Alex Saab is a Venezuelan diplomat, a businessman, and a father who has been held unjustly for over three years, first under house arrest and detention in Cape Verde, and now in jail in Miami, for his work to provide food, medicines, and much needed goods to people in Venezuela. He is Colombian, born to parents of Lebanese and Palestinian descent, and has been living and working in Venezuela for many years in support of various social development projects that are part of the Bolivarian revolutionary process.
Prior to his arrest, Alex Saab’s main work was in securing contracts for the CLAP program in Venezuela, which provides subsidized food and basic supplies to over 6.5 million people in Venezuela. In order to carry out this work, he was appointed a Special Envoy of the Venezuelan government, a diplomatic position, in April 2018.
On the order of the United States, Alex Saab was arrested on June 12, 2020, in Cape Verde, Africa, where he had stopped to refuel his plane on his way to Iran, where he was negotiating these contracts. He was detained and held under house arrest in Cape Verde, where he was also tortured and denied visits with his family.
On October 16, 2021, Alex Saab was kidnapped by the United States. At the time he was kidnapped, there was no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Cape Verde. The U.S. government illegally extracted him from Cape Verde and brought him to a jail in Miami. Most recently, following a hearing in December 2022, United States district judge Robert Scola denied Alex Saab’s assertion of diplomatic immunity. He ruled that the U.S. government doesn’t recognize the democratically elected government of President Maduro and Venezuela, and therefore, the U.S. court system does not have to recognize the diplomatic status of Alex Saab. This ruling completely ignores flagrant and gross violations of Alex Saab’s human rights, international law, and the rights of diplomats. There is now an appeal of this ruling in process in front of the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Alex Saab is a Political Prisoner – the Case of Alex Saab is a Political Case
Alex Saab is a political prisoner. The arrest of Alex Saab in 2020 in Cape Verde was another attack on the U.S. government's interference and aggression against Venezuela. The entire reason that Alex Saab was appointed to a diplomatic position as a Special Envoy by the government of Venezuela in April 2018 was because of U.S. sanctions and blockade against Venezuela, which cut off Venezuela from international trade. This criminal and inhuman U.S.-led policy of blockade has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Venezuela, bringing about the deaths of 40,000 people in 2017-2018 alone, as reported by CEPR in the United States (Centre for Economic Policy Research).
The blockade and sanctions against Venezuela are an attempt to cause people in Venezuela to suffer, to create chaos and discontent in the country and to bring about “regime” change in Venezuela. To overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela and reverse the gains made by poor and working people in Venezuela in the Bolivarian revolutionary process. This is a glaring and horrible violation of the human rights of the Venezuelan people.
The arrest of Alex Saab is significant because it also highlights that the trade between sanctioned countries is a significant threat to U.S. world-wide hegemony. The development of economic and trade agreements that are independent of the United States, including ALBA, CELAC, Mercosur, BRICS, the Beltand-Road Initiative, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are a blow against the U.S. government’s influence in the region. By arresting Alex Saab, the U.S. government is threatening and bullying sanctioned countries from trading with one another.
The Urgency of Freedom for Alex Saab – Join the Campaign!
The illegal imprisonment of Alex Saab is a violation of his human rights and the right of self-determination of the people of Venezuela. He is being denied adequate medical treatment and has not been allowed any visits from Venezuelan diplomatic staff, which is his right under the Vienna Convention, which codifies international law as it relates to diplomats.
Everyday in Venezuela, thousands of people from many backgrounds are fighting for Alex Saab’s freedom, led by the Free Alex Saab movement in Venezuela and the leadership and dedication of his wife, Camilla Fabri Saab.
In Canada, for more than two years, the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Venezuela Peace Committee in Winnipeg and Just Peace Advocates have organized a monthly picket action online featuring speakers from the U.S., Canada, and Venezuela. This action has brought together hundreds of people from around the world in a united demand to free Alex Saab and end the blockade and sanctions on Venezuela.
Alex Saab Postcard Campaign
The Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign launched the Free Alex Saab international postcard campaign in March of this year. We have since been joined by the Antiwar Committee in Minnesota, and we are inviting other organizations in the U.S., Canada and internationally on board. These postcards are addressed to U.S. President Biden.
The postcard campaign has three goals:
1. It is a pressure campaign on U.S. President Biden and his administration to Free Alex Saab
2. It is an excellent public education campaign
3. It allows for broader participation of different layers of people in the campaign to Free Alex Saab -including engagement with social media
We have already distributed and sent out more than 1200 postcards to people in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, and we hope to send thousands more and extend the campaign to Latin America, Europe and worldwide. I encourage everyone to join the postcard campaign and also to join in the ongoing work of the campaign in North America to free Alex Saab. We have the responsibility to make the case of Alex Saab a kitchen-table issue. We must remember that the case of Alex Saab is proof that the influence of the United States is weakening in Latin America. This opens more space for people’s movements and progressive governments. The United States has not been able to defeat the heroic people of Venezuela, and growing cooperation between independent countries is a big defeat and setback for the U.S. This includes the improvement in Venezuela-Colombia relations and Venezuela-Brazil relations and the Belt and Road Initiative from China that has been more active in Latin America since 2019. With a united campaign and our united efforts, Alex Saab will be free!
This article is based on a talk given by Alison Bodine at the “Defending Our Movements Against U.S. Government Attacks on Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights” Webinar organized by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) in the United States. Other speakers at the webinar included Keyanna Jones, a Cop City protester in Georgia Akile Anai of the African People’s Socialist Party, Lauren Pineiro, one of the “Tampa 5” from Students for a Democratic Society, and Jeff Mackler, an activist in defense of Julian Assange from the UNAC Administrative Committee and Socialist Action.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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