José Brito got expelled by Primero Justicia in late 2019 and sanctioned by the U.S in early 2020 when his connection with Alex Saab exposed in a series of articles by the Venezuelan news outlet Armando Info.
Primero Justicia is the second major opposition political party, intervened by the Supreme Court in Venezuela in less than 24 hours. On Monday night, the Supreme Court kicked out the directors of Accion Democratica, one of Latin America’s oldest political parties, and pointed out to Bernabe Gutierrez, the brother of a top elections official, as the new the boss.
The take-over of opposition parties done in preparation for new parliamentary elections, which Maduro announced Tuesday, and through which he hopes, finally, expel the opposition from the legislative.
In 2015, Brito was elected to the National Assembly by the opposition alliance. However, he started lobbying to Colombian and European authorities in favor of Saab, who was already facing strict sanctions in 2018.
Brito and other lawmakers signed letters vouching for Saab and sent them to the authorities in several European countries, some of which they also visited. It was these documents and travels that caught the attention of National Assembly President Juan Guaido and triggered a confrontation.
However, the group of seven lawmakers did not succeed in exculpating Saab. On Saturday, the foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, requested Cape Verde authorities release Saab, whom he admitted received the Venezuelan citizenship and was, according to Arreaza, an agent trying to circumvent U.S sanctions to procure food and medicine for Venezuela.
Saab, according to the Venezuelan opposition and the U.S Department, used the CLAP subsidized foodstuffs scheme started in 2016 to launder money.