Press Advisory: Center for a Free Cuba questions hostage swap for regime ally and alleged money launderer Alex Saab, and conflicting statements over Americans safety in Venezuela

Press Advisory

Center for a Free Cuba questions hostage swap for regime ally and alleged money launderer Alex Saab, and conflicting statements over Americans safety in Venezuela

Contacts: John Suarez  (612)-367-6845 and Janisset Rivero (786)-208-6056 

Raul Castro in 2014 greets Gerardo Hernandez who killed four Americans. Alex Saab, who laundered profits from cocaine trade that killed Americans, greeted by Nicolas Maduro in 2023.

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington DC, December 21, 2023. The Center for a Free Cuba’s executive director finds parallels between the 2014 release of three high ranking Cuban spies, Gerardo Hernandez, and two others, for an American hostage, and the 2023 swap of money launderer and Maduro ally Alex Saab for 10 American hostages, and concerns about U.S. national security and conflicting claims by the Administration about travel to Venezuela.

Alex Saab, a Colombian national, described by The New York Times as a close ally of Nicolas Maduro, and allegedly a major money launderer with working relationships with both state terror sponsors and terrorist groups will not have to answer for his alleged crimes in a court of law, and may now go on to commit new ones.

President Joe Biden issued a statement on “securing the release of Americans detained in Venezuela.” In it he highlighted the release of ten Americans detained in Venezuela, and the return of fugitive Leonard Francis, and the release of twenty political prisoners, on top of five released previously.  In the same statement President Biden cautioned Americans not to go to Venezuela. “As we welcome home our fellow citizens, I must also remind all Americans of the long-standing warning against traveling to Venezuela. Americans should not travel there.”

However, on the same day Juan S. Gonzalez, Special Assistant to President Biden and Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council made a claim that appears to contradict the President in an interview with NTN24 that he tweeted out. “…No more Americans will be detained in Venezuela, and if they are detained they will be deported to the United States. The important thing is that now Venezuela is no longer on the same list with countries like Iran, Russia, North Korea that negotiate with Americans as hostages.”

“With regards to Mr. Gonzalez’s claim that ‘no more Americans will be detained in Venezuela’ would recommend following President Biden’s advice instead, ‘Americans should not travel there,’ said Janisset Rivero, program officer for the Center for a Free Cuba.

Alex Saab’s money-laundering network facilitated the profits of the Soles Cartel’s cocaine trafficking to the United States.  A cartel that came into existence with the know-how of the Cuban intelligence service. It is feared that now that he has been freed he will be back in “business”.

“The exchange of Alex Saab for innocent U.S. hostages, and a fugitive is reminiscent of the exchange of Cuban spy chief Gerardo Hernandez on December 17, 2014 and two other Cuban spies for Alan Gross, an innocent U.S. hostage, and an unidentified Cuban spy. We now know that the 2014 deal was a bad one. This one appears to be another poor deal that will negatively impact U.S. national security and the Venezuelan people,” said John Suarez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Unlike Saab, who was freed quickly before undergoing a fair trial in a U.S. court of law, Gerardo Hernandez was tried and found guilty of espionage and murder conspiracy. He played a role in the murder of four Americans on February 24, 1996. Hernandez, like Saab who was embraced by Maduro upon his return to Venezuela, returned to a hero’s welcome in Cuba embraced by Raul Castro.

Gerardo Hernández was promoted to Deputy National Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) in April 2020, tasked with monitoring neighborhood committees to spy on all Cubans on the island. He was also appointed to the Castro dictatorship’s Council of State, the 31-member body that oversees day-to-day life on the island, on December 17, 2020. Gerardo Hernández was spotted in Moscow on May 31, 2023, laying a wreath to a monument of Fidel Castro. There is speculation on what else he was doing there.

One wonders what new roles Nicolas Maduro and his Cuban handlers will be designating to Alex Saab?