Venezuela's Maduro: no talks until Alex Saab 'kidnap' answered for

Colombian businessman accused by US prosecutors of money laundering

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks to reporters after voting in regional elections at a booth in Fuerte Tiuna, Venezuela. AFP

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has vowed there will be no renewed talks with opposition politicians until "the kidnap" of a prominent government envoy Alex Saab – who was extradited to the US – is answered for.

Venezuela's government withdrew from negotiations in Mexico, which started in August, following Mr Saab's extradition in October. Mr Saab, a Colombian businessman, is accused by US prosecutors in Miami of money laundering.

"There are still no conditions to restart [the dialogue]," Mr Maduro said after voting in regional elections on Sunday that brought opposition politicians back to the fray after four years.

"They have to respond for this kidnapping," he said.

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

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

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

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

Updated: November 22, 2021, 5:36 AM