Venezuela’s Maduro says will not restart talks with opposition until ally freed


CARACAS – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday there will be no renewed talks with opposition politiciansuntil “the kidnap” of a prominent government envoy Alex Saab – who was extradited to the United States – comes to an end.

Last month Venezuela’s government withdrew from negotiations in Mexico which had started in August following Saab’s extradition in October. Saab, a Colombian businessman, is accused by U.S. prosecutors in Miami of money laundering.

“There are still no conditions to restart (the dialogue),” Maduro told journalists after voting in regional elections on Sunday.

U.S. prosecutors say Saab diverted about $350 million out of Venezuela through the United States as part of a bribery scheme tied to the Venezuelan government-controlled currency exchange rate.

Maduro’s allies say the charges against Saab amount to the United States waging an economic war against Venezuela.

The U.S.-backed opposition, which has urged Maduro to return to talks, has said Saab enriched himself via commercial agreements with the government and did nothing to ease the suffering of Venezuelans.

Saab pleaded not guilty to money laundering according to a court document filed on Nov. 15 at the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.


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