It has been 481 days since Venezuelan diplomat and businessman Alex Nain Saab Moran was arrested in the ten-island West African state of Cape Verde. Saab was undertaking a humanitarian Special Mission when, during a refuelling stop, he was arrested at the request of the United States.

Now the 49-year-old father of five, who is a cancer patient, is described by his family as facing a decline in his health which, is likely to result in “irreparable harm” if left unattended. Saab potentially requires surgery, however, given the lack of specialist oncology-focussed care on offer on the Island of Sal it was in recognition of this plus his deteriorating health that the Barlavento Court of Appeal ordered on 31 August that Saab be moved to the capital city Praia on the island of Santiago. Saab’s long-time personal physician Dr. Horacio Bargiela Alvarez, when contacted in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas echoed the view of family members by saying “Sixteen months have passed without Senōr Saab being examined by an oncologist as well as other doctors who have a good understanding of his long-term medical problems. In the name of humanity, I call upon the Cape Verde police to cease and desist from preventing Alex Saab’s move to Praia.”

Alex Saab’s family, the Venezuelan government and his lawyers in Cape Verde have all written to both the President and Prime Minister of Cape Verde to strongly urge that they show leadership and moral courage to force the National Police to comply with the Barlavento Court of Appeal order of 31 August. No explanation has been forthcoming from the local National Police commander why he refuses to permit Alex Saab’s health-related move to Praia, but rumours are swirling on Sal that Minster of the Interior Paulo Rocha, a known pro-American politician, is the one responsible for truculent police response to the court order.

“I just never associated Cape Verde with cruel and inhumane behaviour which could exist so systematically and for such a long time continue,” commented a close family member. “Cape Verde must act. Doing nothing is no longer an option. To keep Alex Saab separated from close family members, including his 5 children, for so long is appalling. Who knows how much time Alex Saab has left?”

Saab was indicted in July 2019 by the United States on allegations of corruption and money laundering stemming from a social housing project commenced during the presidency of Hugo Chavez but continued under his successor President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela has called the interference of the United States in its domestic affairs “unilateral” and “illegal.”

“Legally, Alex Saab should be a free” man says Dr Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro. But Cape Verde is holding him hostage for political leverage. Cape Verde’s leaders have known intimately for months about Alex Saab’s declining health and they are, therefore, fully, completely, and totally responsible for anything that happens to him now.”