Without Medicine, Diplomat Alex Saab Could Die in a U.S. Jail

For years Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab has suffered illegal imprisonment at Washington’s behest. Now he rots in the Miami Federal Detention Center, where, despite numerous serious health issues, he lacks medical care. If he dies there, something President Joe “Throw Away the Key” Biden clearly couldn’t care less about, it will be because U.S. officials flagrantly flouted the law of diplomatic immunity. They did so by having him seized during a flight refueling stop in Cape Verde in June 2020, an illegal, criminal move that endangers diplomats everywhere, including American ones.

Washington especially loathes Saab, 51, because he was such a SUCCESSFUL Venezuelan diplomat, one who arranged deals for his country with Iran, deals that evaded the stranglehold of U.S. sanctions on both nations. Evidence suggests Saab was tortured in Cape Verde. Why? There are allegations the U.S. wanted names of expediters of his clever evasions of sanctions, names he was willing to undergo torture not to reveal. But Washington wanted the info, and it’s apparently willing to let him die in prison, if he won’t give it.

Despite Saab’s torture in his Cape Verde dungeon, his family says his treatment in Miami is worse. Saab suffers a slew of ailments, has been vomiting blood, and clearly could expire any day. He gets no medicine because the U.S. government doesn’t give a damn. It broke the law to get its hands on him and doesn’t care that in so doing it endangers its own diplomats. With breathtaking imperial arrogance, Washington has asserted, as it does in the Julian Assange press freedom case, that it is above the law.

How bad is the U.S. violation of law regarding diplomatic immunity? Very. According to diplomatic law expert Eileen Denza in Forbes on April 21, Saab deserved immunity from arrest and detention as a diplomat in any state through which he had to travel on his way to Iran, “and in any States in which he finds himself against his will, which perfectly describes his situation in the United States…It follows that the continued detention of Alex Saab in the U.S. is a grave violation of his inviolability as Venezuela’s special envoy.”

Denza observes that “the fact that the U.S. does not recognize the Maduro government in Caracas is irrelevant,” from a legal perspective, and that “the U.S. is not entitled to interfere with the diplomatic activities of Iran and Venezuela.” Such interference violates international diplomatic law. Period. Remember Denza was writing for Forbes – not exactly a stridently anti-Washington, left-wing rag.

Denza argues that since Saab’s arrest is a “breach of diplomatic norms,” the U.S. would be wise to back off. “If the U.S. continues to disregard Saab’s immunity it may well find that the immunity of U.S. special envoys abroad will be put at risk.” Does Washington even care? In my view, if the gang in charge regarded the risk as real, yes, imperial sachems would care. But flabbergasting arrogance rules the vermiculated roost in the Exceptional Empire, whose rulers no doubt cannot even imagine that their enemies would have the nerve to do unto them as imperial pooh-bahs do unto those they dislike. The notion is simply inconceivable to Inside the Beltway mandarins.

That’s why it was surprising to learn back in the February 28 Newsweek that there existed a potential deal to swap Saab for U.S. citizens incarcerated in Venezuela. That arrangement clearly collapsed, because there’s been no more news of it since last February. Then on June 11, Spy Talk reported that “Maduro offered a 9-for-1 deal to get back his sanctions-evading money man and suspected DEA double agent Alex Saab.” If Saab is indeed a Drug Enforcement Agency double agent, that explains the ferocity of his abuse at imperial hands. Not surprisingly, for Washington, Maduro’s offer “was a nonstarter.” To imperial bigwigs, Saab is “a top-tier international criminal who laundered hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars through American banks.” The Colombian-born Saab is also alleged to have “acted as Hezbollah’s money many in Latin America.” So nope, with suspicions like these, Washington is unlikely to release Saab.

As for Saab being a DEA double agent, “some experts suspect Saab kept Maduro fully informed of his work for the DEA. Some even suspect Saab’s reports to Maduro helped the Venezuelan leader foil a U.S.-backed coup against him on April 13, 2019.” Foiling a U.S.-backed coup? DEA double agent or no, that is simply unforgivable in Washington. Indeed, when Saab’s private jet landed in Cape Verdo to refuel in June 2020, “the Trump administration positioned a U.S. Navy cruiser off the Cape Verde coast just in case Venezuela or Iran tried to spirit him off the island.”

Not all U.S. prosecutors’ allegations are universally championed, however, Spy Talk notes. “After a three-year investigation, Swiss authorities ended their probe in 2021, citing insufficient evidence to support the claims.” But whether the charges are true or not, Saab is very important to Washington – and to Caracas. “Just hours after Saab was put on a plane to the United States, Venezuelan authorities jailed six American oil executives…That same evening, the Maduro government pulled out of Mexico City negotiations with the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition.” The Maduro government allegedly wants him back because of his inside info on its finances. “He knows where all the bodies are buried,” one “expert” told Spy Talk.

According to CODEPINK on March 17, “the Working Group against Torture and several UN rapporteurs raised their alarm” about Saab’s declining health back in July 2021. His family doctor visited him in Cape Verde and “identified multiple serious issues, including anemia, anorexia, diabetes mellitus type 2, hypothyroidism, hypertension and high risk of thromboembolic disease…” among other ailments, some indicating a recurrence of cancer. “Additionally, Saab’s lower left molar was found to be broken from beatings.” In Miami, Saab is not allowed to see his family, nor receive Venezuelan consular visits “as established in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.” Another staggeringly high-handed American abuse of power.

If this maltreatment of Saab kills him, that will set U.S.-Venezuelan relations back substantially, at a time when Biden desperately needs Caracas’ oil. After all, it was Joe “Shot Himself in the Foot with Sanctions” Biden who emptied the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to depress gasoline prices and thus appease furious voters, when his disastrous sanctions on Russian energy caused those gas prices to soar. Now there looms possible wider war in the Middle East and with it the end of oil from that region. Where will Biden turn to slake North America’s voracious fossil fuel thirst? Caracas is a likely oil haven for a president harried by public anger over gas pump prices. Biden might want to consider that before continuing to deprive Saab of a doctor. Because if Saab dies, it’s not just the repellent state murder of one diplomat with questionable espionage connections; an energy lifeline for the U.S. could snap, too.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.