By Nadeska Noriega.
Employees from the company Salva Foods 2015 -one of the companies tied to accused money launderer Alex Saab- have been forced to protest for his release.
Saab has been imprisoned in Cape Verde since June 12, 2020. He has been remanded to house arrest there but is still in custody.
Salva Food, founded in 2015, is part of the US sanctioned scheme to sell subsidized foodstuffs known as the CLAP and works exclusively with the Nicolas Maduro regime in this regard. News site Primicias 24 reported in 2018 that Salva was the largest food distribution company in Venezuela, with 6,500 employees and offices in Caracas and the port of La Guaira.
Bosses threatened demonstrators and told them the incarcerated man was one of the bosses there. According to the records, Salva Foods 2015 is a company owned by fellow Colombian businessman Carlos Lizcano and he has a firm registered in China called Group Grand Limited linked to Alvaro Pulido and Alex Saab. The Group Grand also has been sanctioned by the US for its involvement in the CLAP scheme.
It is precisely in La Guaira where employees say Salva Food bosses are forcing them to public demonstrations to demand that Saab be released, a man who may be tied to their company by the US investigators, but an unknown man for them.
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“We were summoned to a meeting for Sunday, January 31, on a mandatory basis, at the headquarters of the port of La Guaira, and we were deceived and taken to a concentration in favor of a certain Alex Saab, whom we do not even know. They say that he is a big boss of the company, that he is a prisoner, and we must ask for his release. To many of us, this is abuse because they use our need to work to take videos, photos and say that we are demanding freedom for Alex Saab. All we want is that our right to work gets respected,” an employee of Salva Foods 2015, who requested to protect his identity, told El Pitazo.
Initiatives to free Saab by the Maduro regime have all failed so far. They have granted him Venezuelan citizenship, a diplomatic service passport, appointed him as ambassador to an African trade bloc, argued about his health, etc. All to no avail, so far. State oil company PDVSA, also sanctioned by the US, exhibited banners outside of it Monday demanding “Free Alex Saab.”
Saab was arrested on two US-issued Interpol warrants, one a summons for trial and another an immediate arrest notice. Saab got named in a Florida court during the Bruce Bagley trial, a college professor and expert in money laundering, currently serving a 10-year sentence for laundering money on behalf of Saab.
The employees shared with El Pitazo a digital message sent by the Human Resources Department of Salva Foods 2015. In the text, it read that “a mandatory massive meeting for all the personnel” called for Sunday, January 31, the same day that a caravan in support of Alex Saab was running in Caracas, and posters hung in several streets of the capital with the face of the Colombian businessman.
When Saab was arrested, the regime said he is an agent procuring foodstuffs for Venezuela.
“They called us for a labor meeting, and then they told us that from now on, we must support these calls because if not, they would take away our benefits. They told us that we had to bring five more people for these activities. One cannot remain without a job. But that they are forced and threatened us with the police or the Military Counterintelligence Directorate because they say that we work in strategic areas, we do not want to allow it,” recounted another of the employees who went to El Pitazo to showing more than 200 signatures in support of these opinions.
Another of the workers related that when they were summoned to discuss labor issues and ended up recording videos that have been circulated on social networks, saying that they support Alex Saab.
“We were not even aware of that. They want to make it look like this Alex Saab is doing the food bags out of pure commitment, but the Colombians are well paid. We also earn money, but they feel they have the right to mistreat us and use us without even asking,” said the worker, who also asked to remain anonymous.
El Pitazo requested information from the regional management of Salva Foods in the port of La Guaira, but we were denied access to the facilities.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.