CARACAS (Reuters) -Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday there will be no renewed talks with opposition politicians until “the kidnap” of a prominent government envoy Alex Saab – who was extradited to the United States – is answered for.
Venezuela’s government withdrew from negotiations in Mexico, which started in August, following Saab’s extradition in October. Saab, a Colombian businessman, is accused by U.S. prosecutors in Miami of money laundering.
“There are still no conditions to restart (the dialogue),” Maduro told journalists after voting in regional elections on Sunday that saw opposition politicians returning to the fray after four years.
“They have to respond for this kidnapping,” he said.
U.S. prosecutors say Saab diverted about $350 million out of Venezuela through the United States as part of a bribery scheme tied to the Venezuelan government-controlled currency exchange rate.
Maduro’s allies say the charges against Saab amount to the United States waging an economic war against Venezuela.
The U.S.-backed opposition, which has urged Maduro to return to talks, has said Saab enriched himself via commercial agreements with the government and did nothing to ease the suffering of Venezuelans.
Saab pleaded not guilty to money laundering according to a court document filed on Nov. 15 at the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Writing by Oliver Griffin; editing by Diane Craft and Himani Sarkar)