US court awards $73 million in Fernando Alban’s death

A Miami federal judge has awarded $73 million in damages to the family of a prominent opponent of Venezuela’s socialist government who died in custody in what he called a “wage killing” carried out by a criminal enterprise headed by President Nicolás Maduro.

Fernando Albán was arrested in 2018 upon arrival at Caracas International Airport from New York, where he was part of a delegation denouncing Maduro’s government on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. He died three days later in a suicide jump from the 10th floor of a building owned by Venezuelan intelligence.

Albán’s death sparked international outrage and condemnation from the US. Last year, his widow and two children sued Maduro and several senior members of his government for the kidnapping, torture and murder of the former Caracas councillor.

The family accused the men of belonging to the “Cartel of Suns,” an alleged drug smuggling ring involving senior Venezuelan officials and guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – a designated terrorist group – that allegedly ships 200 tons of cocaine from Venezuela to the US every year.

Amparo Salazar, mother of opposition councilor Fernando Alban, cries at his funeral.
The court ruled that the Suns cartel had to pay $73 million to Fernando Alban’s estate.
Picture Alliance via Getty Image

Judge Darrin P. Gayles entered a default judgment against the cartel last week for failing to respond to the lawsuit in a previously unreported judgment. In it, the court found that the so-called “criminal enterprise Maduro” is responsible for federal extortion crimes related to Albán’s death because its sole purpose is to “exercise unlawful authoritarian control over Venezuela” through drug trafficking, terrorist attacks and human rights abuses. .

The court, echoing a judge’s earlier findings, said Maduro government agents tailed Albán while he was still in New York, took surveillance photos and sent information back to Venezuela that enabled his kidnapping and assassination upon his return home.

“Lord. The murder of Albán was a wage killing because members of the Maduro Criminal Enterprise who committed the murder received payments (in the form of salaries) from the Maduro regime,” the court said.

Fernando Albán's family members were seen mourning outside the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.
Fernando Albán’s death sparked US condemnation and international outrage.
LightRocket via Getty Images

The court ruled that the cartel must pay $73 million to Albán’s estate for the pain and suffering caused by his death.

However, it is unclear how the survivors will receive such a large reward. While Maduro and other defendants named in the original lawsuit — including his defense minister and the head of Venezuela’s Supreme Court — have been charged with drug terrorism and corruption in the US, they have faced little pressure to relinquish power from Albán’s former cohorts in the opposition.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has indicated its willingness to ease sanctions on the oil-rich OPEC nation in exchange for progress in talks with the opposition aimed at promoting a more democratic environment for the 2024 presidential election.

In addition, the only suspected cartel ringleader in US custody, retired Army General Cliver Alcala, is being represented by a court-appointed legal team after he claimed he was unable to pay for his defense.

A lawyer for Albán’s family declined to comment.

Albán’s case was also reported to the International Criminal Court, which investigates allegations of torture and killings by Maduro’s security forces. In late 2021, Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced that two members of the feared SEBIN intelligence agency had been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for negligence in connection with Alban’s death. US court awards $73 million in Fernando Alban’s death


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