USA and Venezuela exchange prisoners - Maduro confidant released

In return, Venezuela released 20 Venezuelan political prisoners and 10 U.

USA and Venezuela exchange prisoners - Maduro confidant released

In return, Venezuela released 20 Venezuelan political prisoners and 10 U.S. citizens and extradited businessman Leonard Francis, who was at the center of the U.S. Navy's largest corruption scandal. The agreement was brokered by the Gulf state of Qatar, according to US officials.

"Today, ten Americans who were imprisoned in Venezuela have been released and are coming home," said US President Biden. He is happy that “her ordeal is finally over.”

The Venezuelan government welcomed the release of the "wrongfully imprisoned" Saab, whose arrival was broadcast on local television. His release was a "symbol of victory" for Venezuelan diplomacy, it said in a statement. President Maduro spoke of a “triumph of truth.” Saab thanked the Venezuelan president and said "today the miracle of freedom, the miracle of justice has become a reality."

Saab, who has both Colombian and Venezuelan citizenship, was arrested in the summer of 2020 during a stopover in Cape Verde off the northwest African coast and then extradited to the USA.

The USA accuses Saab and his business partner Álvaro Pulido of money laundering. The two are said to have helped Maduro and his allies make hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from food aid for the needy population of Venezuela and transport them abroad.

In response to Saab's extradition, Maduro suspended talks with the US-backed opposition about ending the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

In 2018, the opposition rejected Maduro's re-election as manipulated. Dozens of countries including the US and EU countries also did not recognize the election results. The then opposition speaker of parliament, Juan Guaidó, then declared himself interim president. However, Maduro was able to remain in power with the support of the military.

In 2019, Washington tightened its sanctions against the South American country, which was hit by a severe economic crisis. Recently, Washington and Caracas became closer again. In October, the Venezuelan government and the opposition agreed to allow international observers for next year's presidential elections. The USA then announced that it would partially relax its sanctions.

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