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Fight for Venezuelan diplomat's freedom intensifies due to health concerns

By Andrew Josefchak

Venezuelans demand freedom for Alex Saab.

Caracas, Venezuela – It has now been more than 1000 days since Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab was first kidnapped by the U.S. government on the island of Cabo Verde, off the west coast of Africa. Since then, he’s been subjected to physical, psychological and chemical torture and moved to a federal detention center in Miami, Florida.

Two members of Minnesota's Anti-War Committee met with Saab’s wife, Camilla Fabri Saab, on Tuesday, March 7, alongside a delegation from the Alliance for Global Justice and progressive lawyers with the Free Alex Saab Movement. Camilla, Fabri Saab, mother to their two young daughters, provided updates on his case, emphasizing that his health has taken a severe turn for the worse.

Saab is missing several teeth due to beatings and has been denied access to all medical treatment beyond aspirin. Camilla’s account of the weaponization of psychiatric treatment in the Miami Detention Center was particularly shocking. First U.S. officials tortured Saab, then they diagnosed him with PTSD resulting from the torture that they themselves inflicted. Using that diagnosis as a pretext, Saab was forced to take pills which made him feel exhausted, dizzy and nauseous to such a degree that he was sometimes unable to even speak on the phone. Prison staff refused to tell him what was in these pills, and it was only after Alex Saab's lawyers intervened that this chemical torture ended.

Saab is a diabetic cancer survivor, making the Miami FDC’s decision to deny him medical attention especially cruel and life-threatening. Four weeks ago, he began to vomit blood. Despite this, he is still being denied the right to see a doctor. Saab’s rapidly deteriorating health means that the urgency of his fight for freedom intensifies day by day.

Everything indicates that this medical mistreatment is intentional U.S. policy, an extension of efforts to immiserate the Venezuelan people as a whole. The dark irony of Saab being deprived of healthcare is that he is being targeted for his efforts to bring exactly that – healthcare – to the people of Venezuela. Under a U.S.-led blockade that prevented Venezuela from importing basic goods like food, medicine, fuel and agricultural supplies, many Venezuelans suffered tremendously. Saab traveled the world as a diplomat for the Venezuelan government in order to secure the basic, critical supplies needed to save Venezuelans from starvation and death by preventable illnesses.

Camilla also provided the Anti-War Committee with an internal U.S. government email from Elliot Abrams, a neoconservative and former U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela. She described this email as a “smoking gun.” District Judge Robert Scola’s ruling against Alex Saab in December of last year relied on the assertion that he is not a diplomat and thus doesn’t have any diplomatic immunity. In the email Camilla presented, however, Abrams admits that Saab was in possession of a diplomatic passport and suggests that the U.S. will have to find a way to discredit the passport, such as claiming that it is a fake, in order to successfully prosecute him. The case against Alex Saab has been clearly politically motivated and illegal from the beginning, but this new evidence is concrete proof.

Since the visit, Camilla and the Free Alex Saab Movement have continued the fight, holding the U.S. government squarely responsible for Saab’s life. Their current demands are:

For the International Committee of the Red Cross to send a representative to the Miami Detention Center; for the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights to denounce Saab’s imprisonment as an illegal detention and a violation of human rights; for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to denounce the illegal detention of a diplomat by the U.S. as a violation of international law; and, immediate freedom for Alex Saab.

Activists in the U.S. know we cannot rely on the legal system to do its job and free Alex Saab. The U.S. government willingly violated international law. It will take a concerted, popular struggle for Saab to see his family again. The Free Alex Saab Movement is calling for activists to take to the streets for a National Week of Action from May 1-7 to build the movement and show U.S. leaders that we will not stand by while Saab, and Venezuelan people as a whole, are criminally attacked.

Free Alex Saab!

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