The clemency pardon given to criminal Alex Saab by Joe Biden has riled some people. Their argument is that such thing would had never occurred had Donald Trump been in the White House. They forgot that Trump greenlighted a plan to oust Nicolas Maduro spearheaded by Raul Gorrin, and his National Security Council gave a de facto exemption from prosecution deal to the second most corrupt chavista of all times: Rafael Ramirez. It seems to have been forgotten also that disgraced -and now bankrupt- Rudy Giuliani (Trump's lawyer), successfully lobbied Trump's AG Bill Barr to get Alejandro Betancourt off the hook.
Saab was never going to be the ending of Maduro, but Maduro, ever the shrewdest player when it comes to U.S. - Venezuela power dynamics, had Fat Leonard. Very few of those decrying Biden's decision know of Fat Leonard, but here's a hint: "He secretly recorded orgies with some of the Navy’s most powerful men, one of the U.S. military’s worst ever security failures. China and Russia never could have done this much damage."
When it comes to national interests and international relations, every adult in the room knows that justice is never the top priority. This very simple fact continues to escape Venezuela's political debate. Maduro's standing and power grip cannot be weakened by corruption accusations. He is corruption personified. The reputation of American governments, on the other hand, has deteriorated and its military has all but lost the formidable fear-inducing powers of yesteryear. Fat Leonard's tag line "... a defense contractor who bribed Navy officers with cash, prostitutes and luxury items in return for multi-million-dollar deals" puts him in Saab's league, but unlike Saab his information can bring a lot of disrepute to the U.S. military.
This is part of the context of swapping Saab for a bunch of Americans detained in Venezuela. America no longer wants to be the world's police. Recent events have demonstrated that it lacks the will and wherewithal to face multiple foreign policy crises at once. Against the backdrop of Ukraine, Israel-Palestine, South China Sea, Red Sea, North Korea and Russia conflicts, Venezuela is just not a problem that registers in that scale. That the place is run by a criminal gang? So is Brazil, and India, Russia, China... That its ruler doesn't allow for free and fair elections? Erm, Electoral College? That its military is involved in corruption?
America cannot claim the higher moral ground anymore anywhere. The problems that afflict Venezuelans are existential to Americans also. If not for political reasons particular to different administrations, why would a taxpayer's dollar be spent prosecuting and keeping incarcerated someone like Saab?
As expected, Saab was freed and sent back to a hero's welcome. Maduro tweeted that he got there safe and sound ("sano, vivo y libre"). Not a single mention to the $12 million that Saab paid the DEA. Not a single mention to Italy forcing his gold digging wife to go on the run. Not one mention of German Rubio, convicted drug trafficker, jailed for corruption in Venezuela and UBO of Saab's shell companies network. And not one mention so far of the cancer that, according to chavismo, was killing Saab.
Parties associated to Saab's crude trading operations are back in play. He has already been appointed by Jorge Rodriguez as part of the "negotiating team" that chavismo will force on the opposition. If anything, the detention in Cape Verde, extradition and brief incarceration in the U.S. has made him. Long gone are the days when he rejected links to that establishment he is part of now.
There is, however, a saying in Venezuela: "nadie me quita lo bailao'" Saab and his associates may pretend to be legitimate all they like, and in Venezuela they are, but that won't purge his record, that won't make him into a respectable businessman, the crowning effectively cements his criminal credentials.
Biden didn't do it so badly after all. His clemency contains extraordinarily harsh conditions towards an allegedly "innocent Venezuelan diplomat." It stipulates that Saab "...shall not commit any additional crimes against the United States...", and concludes with: "If at any time the said Alex Nain Saab Moran violates one or more of the aforementioned terms, as determined by me in my complete discretion (or by a future President in his or her complete discretion), this Pardon may be voided in its entirety."
Saab, as now an official fixture of Maduro's regime, not commiting any crimes?