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I was in Cape Verde this week checking out the torture and police mistreatment that has been denounced to the world since the kidnapping of ambassador Alex Saab, Venezuela’s special envoy, 400 days ago.
Upon arrival at the airport, unlike other tourist countries, I was asked exaggeratedly what I was coming to the island for having a Mexican passport. After almost an hour of interrogation they let me in.
I started to walk the streets of Praia and then I moved to the island of Sal, the island in theory more touristy of the archipelago and where Ambassador Alex Saab is kidnapped.
I was able to observe the absolute poverty in which the country finds itself, the country has nothing left of green, only an arid and funereal desert.
The houses are 90% unfinished. There is almost nothing in the stores and there are no international fast-food chains.
The entrance to the sea is completely full of stones which makes it almost impossible to enter to bathe. The water that is drunk is distilled from sea water which in the long run causes pain in the knees.
Everywhere on the island, when one asks about Ambassador Alex Saab, the first thing one hears is how the authorities could have committed such an act of atrocious kidnapping and aggression against another country.
No one explains the reasons why, just as no one agrees with the detention. We could not find a single inhabitant in favor.
Everyone claims that this was a friendly island and that it was waiting for the tourist with great joy. Today there is only fear.
People ask for the release of the ambassador , but the government , according to what we are told , does not listen , they say it is because of an economic commitment with the United States that a week ago offered them shamelessly through its ambassador in Praia a bribe of usd 100 million dollars for the extraction of Ambassador Alex Saab ( here is the link to the news ).
In other words, after more than 100 years, Cape Verde re-established the sale of slaves.
They have just celebrated 46 years of independence, although it seems more like total dependence on the United States that even the PM spent there the day of independence of his country making the flag of Cape Verde next to the United States even mentioning that it was exciting, while he was booed by citizens of Boston of Cape Verdean origin who demanded the freedom of Ambassador Alex Saab.
The island that used to show beautiful beaches on its postcards is now considered one of the most unsafe places to spend a peaceful vacation. The police have become aggressive and they live in a state of alert according to its inhabitants.
Nobody understands why Cape Verde got into such trouble , detaining a diplomat who had immunity as Special Envoy since April 2018 and who was notified by Venezuela , Russia and Iran two hours after being illegally detained and beaten off his plane which was only on a technical stop placing gasoline in humanitarian mission from Venezuela to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Although Ambassador Alex Saab was carrying documents accrediting him as a diplomat, they were not taken into account by the police, who obviously had already planned his kidnapping.
Unofficially we learned that that same night they tried to locate President Fonseca and Prime Minister Correia in different countries to solve this impasse but with or without intention they did not get on the phone and allowed this to be brought before a court during that weekend.
Since then, they have always replied that the decision will be taken by a court of law, while all their people are waiting for the immediate release order to be taken by their rulers, in an act of sovereignty, which is the only one that could clean up the cowardly and insecure image they have left before the world.
It is in these moments when a leader is needed to put an end to the outrages committed. That is what leadership really demonstrates. There is not the slightest doubt of all the illegalities that have been committed in this case since his arrest until today.
I arrived by commercial flight after a long journey because there are not many direct flights to the capital of Praia. The people are good, friendly, eager to receive tourists after a pandemic that hit them very hard economically.
They became independent from Portugal only 46 years after thousands of their inhabitants died of starvation without the help of this European country.
But in the years 1600 to 1800 it was not like that. At that time Cape Verde collected the most taxes for Portugal, all based on the slave trade. Yes, incredibly this was the point or the station where all the slaves that went to America to different parts of the world stopped. Its sand was covered with the blood and mistreatment of millions of African slaves.
When slavery was banned, it ceased to be important for Portugal, since it did not produce the expected revenues but rather cost them to maintain it.
With courageous leaders they fought for the independence of the country until they achieved it.
But it seems that so much suffering failed to sensitize the government. Today it is ruled by a prime minister who makes absolutely all the decisions in the country. At the same time, it has a president who only acts in protocol acts. The feeling I felt is that people see him as a more approachable and reasonable person, but he cannot make decisions.
Prime Minister Ulises Correa Da Silva is considered almost a dictator and the director responsible for the arrest of the ambassador. Besides being a country of only 500,000 inhabitants, it has 27 ministers and 72 deputies. I leave that conclusion to you.
However, people who have more knowledge say that everything was done behind his back by the ministers Landim , Paulo Rocha the man they fear the most on the island with several investigations of murders and that everyone says he works for the United States . Everyone fears him. Including they say the prime minister. Paulo Rocha controls the police and Carlos Reiss, head of national security, who they call a murderer.
There are many courts as well but the only one that still has some prestige so far is the constitutional court , which at this moment is deciding on the extradition or not of ambassador Alex Saab .
However, this court has also expired and they have not decided yet but they continue to keep him under police surveillance which is totally illegal according to the constitution of his own country.
The defense lawyers have presented more than five habeas corpus asking for his release and the supreme court answers that he is already free when we all know what happened from prison to a house surrounded by police of which he does not even control the keys.
He remains locked up 24 hours a day and is only opened when food is brought to him.
Despite being a cancer survivor and with many health problems, he spent the first almost eight months lying on a concrete floor in total darkness and not allowed to go out to the yard more than half an hour a week in total isolation, with prohibition to speak or be spoken to by other inmates, he was physically tortured on more than four occasions demanding him to sign his voluntary extradition and statements against his government that obviously did not succeed since we have only seen statements defending his country and his government from a blockade that the UN itself recognized as inhumane. Nor was he allowed access to doctors he trusted.
The director who was at that time in the prison never intervened to stop this massacre as we were told by relatives of some prisoners that we were able to contact.
After a visit of a local Human Rights Commission, 8 months after the kidnapping, this director was changed suddenly and without explanation, who happened to be Correia, the same as the first Minister Ulises Correria and the kidnapper Natalino Correia.
On March 15, the highest court in this part of Africa called Cedeao / Ecowas, after months of reviewing the case, declared the arrest illegal and arbitrary and condemned the island of
Cape Verde to release him immediately and pay him compensation. Cape Verde did not comply with the order and appealed. He asked the court to answer basically two points:
Whether they had jurisdiction over them.
If they could review the release order .
The court ruled on June 21 ratifying both points. Even so, the ambassador is still in prison.
On July 1st the deadline for the constitutional court to make a decision on the future of the ambassador expired, however it did not do so.
Immediately his international lawyers, who were never allowed access to the island and were deported from the airport on several occasions, requested his release by expiration of terms, which the court has not answered.
In other words, Cape Verde has become a true dictatorship, violating due process and with all the constitutional violations you can imagine.
Who dares to invest in Cape Verde today? I don’t think so. Tourists who know the history will not be encouraged to take the risk of going to a country where the police and the government is totally authoritarian.
Just yesterday they were expropriating a private Boeing plane for no reason.
The country went from being a group of islands with tourist potential by investing some resources, to a hell caused by its rulers, not by the people.
It is a pity. We hope that their rulers or the court will rectify and release soon the ambassador Alex Saab because every day that passes, the country is more discredited and is very bad seen before the whole world.