Alex Saab, an ally of Maduro, was released by the US in exchange for imprisoned Americans

President Joe Biden’s administration has released a close ally of the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro in an exchange for Americans imprisoned in Venezuela, according to what he learned The Associated Press.

Alex Saab, arrested in 2020 on an arrest warrant for money laundering, was released this Wednesday.

In exchange for this, Maduro will release some, if not all, of the 10 US citizens prisoners in Venezuela, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The White House declined to comment.

On Friday and again on Monday, two docket entries were filed under seal in the long-dormant criminal case in federal court in Miami, a sign that a deal was being worked out behind the scenes.

What was Alex Saab accused of?

For a long time, The United States accuses Saab of being a traveling representative of Maduro. His release would be a major concession to Maduro, an authoritarian ruler, himself the subject of a $15 million reward for anyone who brings him to New York to answer drug trafficking charges.

The swap will likely displease the Venezuelan opposition, which has recently criticized the White House for standing on the sidelines as the OPEC member country’s leader has repeatedly outmaneuvered the U.S. government after a top-down campaign failed. pressure from the Donald Trump government to overthrow him.

In October, the White House eased sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry and promised to reimpose them before November 30, if Maduro did not fulfill his promise to pave the way for free and fair elections next year.

The deadline has expired and Maduro has not lifted the ban on the candidacy of his main opponent, María Corina Machado.

Between the Americans imprisoned in Venezuela There are two former Green Berets, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, involved in an attempt to overthrow Maduro in 2019.

Other prisoners are Eyvin Hernández, Jerrel Kenemore and Joseph Cristella, accused of illegally entering the country from Colombia. More recently, Venezuela arrested Californian businessman Savoi Wright, 38.

Saab, 51, was forced to get off a private jet during a fuel stopover in Cape Verde, on the way to Iran, where he was heading to negotiate oil agreements on behalf of the Maduro government.

He is charged with conspiracy to launder money in connection with a bribery scheme that allegedly diverted $350 million from state contracts to build affordable housing on behalf of the Venezuelan government.