For the second time in just over 14 months, a prisoner-swap between the Venezuelan and American governments has taken place in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Earlier today, the United States released Alex Saab, said to be a close associate of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in exchange for 36 persons, 12 of whom are Americans.
SEARCHLIGHT has learned that the transfer between the two countries took place on the Grenadine island of Canouan, part of the island nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
An official familiar with the security arrangements on the island said tight security was provided by the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.
The swap took place at the airport in Canouan, the same site as a similar exercise on October 1, 2022, when Venezuela freed seven jailed Americans, including five oil executives, in exchange for the release of two nephews of the wife of Maduro.
Wednesday’s prisoner exchange is the latest sign of a shift in relations between the two countries, the US media has reported.
In October, the US relaxed sanctions on Venezuelan oil and gas, after the Venezuelan government and opposition reached an accord on the conduct of general elections, scheduled for April 2024.
The US said the easing of sanctions would be dependent on the elections being free and fair.
Alex Saab is a Columbian businessman who was arrested on a US warrant on a money laundering charge in 2020.
The businessman was on his way to Iran when he was detained on an Interpol “red notice” while his plane refuelled in Cape Verde in 2020.
The Venezuelan government described him as an “envoy” and argued that he had been travelling to Iran to buy medical supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic, the BBC reported.
But Cape Verde ruled that he did not have diplomatic status and extradited him to the US, where he was charged with money laundering and bribery.
According to the AP, among the Americans behind bars in Venezuela are two former Green Berets, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who were involved in an attempt to oust Maduro in 2019. Also detained are Eyvin Hernandez, Jerrel Kenemore and Joseph Cristella, who are accused of entering the country illegally from Colombia. More recently, Venezuela arrested Savoi Wright, a 38-year-old California businessman.
Less than one week ago, St Vincent and the Grenadines made international news when it hosted a one-day meeting between Venezuelan President Maduro and president of Guyana Irfaan Ali, the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders since tensions escalated between the countries over the mineral rich Essequibo region. The meeting resulted in ‘The Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela’ in which both leaders agreed not to use force to settle the border dispute.