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CPI Joins National Day of Action Demanding the Release of Alex Saab

By Dr. Ryan Cotten2/21/2022
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On 2/16/22, the Center for Political Innovation (CPI) joined in a National Day of Action to demand the release of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, a man being extradited by the US for trying to bring food home to his people in Venezuela. CPI led demonstrations in major US cities such as San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Washington DC, and New York City. In cities that didn’t already have an organized demonstration, CPI organized our own. This was the case for CPI California organizing in San Francisco. The Simón Bolívar statue in front of the United Nations Plaza was the perfect place to demand the release of Alex Saab!

The combination of US sanctions and COVID hit especially hard in Venezuela. The US government admits that sanctions on their state oil company contributed to decline in the economy. A crippling blow to its oil industry that has negatively impacted the lives of Venezuelans. The US even blocked oil-for-food swaps by Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro asked Saab to embark on an Urgent Humanitarian Aid Mission to Iran for food, fuel, medicine, and essential supplies.

In June 2020, Alex Saab was kidnapped at the behest of the United States; detained, imprisoned, tortured for over a year in Capo Verde. Every effort was made for months by US agents to break him, turn him, and get him to betray Venezuela but he refused. His legal team filed many legal challenges, but they have been deported and barred from Cape Verde. In October 2021, Alex Saab was kidnapped for a second time by the US just before the final legal challenges that could have released him. Brought to US blindfolded, hooded, and in chains to federal prison in Miami. This is a violation of internationally recognized diplomatic immunity, even in times of war going back to the 1961 Vienna Convention.

What was Alex Saab’s crime? The US government wants you to think it was “money laundering” or “colluding with the DEA” but Saab conducted perfectly legal international trade circumventing illegal sanctions. The Swiss Bank conducted a two year investigation before it was dropped with no evidence of money laundering. This was legal trade but in violation of the illegal US sanctions. Alex Saab should be praised instead of demonized by the US government and the US media. Saab was arranging the legal purchase of desperately needed medicine and essential supplies for a county that was being strangled by US imposed economic sanctions; bypassing illegal sanctions US imposed on Venezuela. These sanctions are designed to asphyxiate the nation into submission with the United States. This is illegal under international law. Arresting an internationally recognized diplomat on a humanitarian mission is a crime against humanity and a violation of the UN charter. Do countries of the world have a right to trade? To eat? To medical care?

Alex Saab’s case is part of a larger US effort to use “lawfare” to impose its illegal sanctions, which the UN condemns as unilateral coercive measures. Any country that tries to develop on its own is subject to deadly sanctions. The United States can extend its imperial reach through its domination of the international finance system and the US dollar mediated SWIFT system; countries must accept US restrictions or face sanctions themselves. Alex Saab is being prosecuted because he is serving his country’s interest rather than that of the financial interest of US bankers. The US has no legal jurisdiction over a Venezuelan in Capo Verde on his humanitarian mission to Iran.

Sanctions are a form of economic warfare. US Sanctions affect over 40 countries, one-third of the world’s population and demands every other country follow or face the same. This is an example of the long reach of the US empire enforcing it’s deadly sanctions on some one-third of humanity. Sanctions are isolating Venezuela – just as Alex Saab has been isolated in Capo Verde. This is the consequence of the US foreign policy affecting not just a single family but an entire country. Alex Saab has a family; he is a husband, a father. His wife and two children haven’t seen him since 2020. Alex Saab’s father died while he was in custody and was denied access to phones to speak to family.

The US kidnapping a diplomat represents a dangerous new precedent – in terms of extraterritorial judicial abuse, violation of diplomatic status, and even the use of torture to extract false confessions. Is every diplomat of a sanctioned country now at risk? If they can lock up a diplomat, a man with international immunity, if they can arrest and detain a diplomat from another country, what can they do to you?

The Center for Political Innovation is opposed to US extraterritorial judicial overreach and abuse. Venezuela has a right to trade, to eat, to essential supplies. We demand the immediate release of Alex Saab!