Wed. Apr 24th, 2019

USA demands immediate release of Citgo executives detained in Venezuela

USA demands immediate release of Citgo executives detained in Venezuela

US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday demanded the "immediate release" of the six ex-directors of Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned company PDVSA, arrested in Venezuela in 2017 for various crimes of alleged corruption, when they received their relatives in the White House .

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"They are being illegally detained, this regime should immediately release these six people, I should immediately release all political prisoners," Pence said at the beginning of the meeting.

The US vice president insisted on qualifying the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, "as a dictator without a legitimate mandate" so he "must leave."

"These six families and their loved ones are proof of that," added Pence.

To this end, he indicated that the government of President Donald Trump is considering "forceful actions" against Cuba, a country that assured "facilitates the oppression" against Venezuela, to put more pressure on Caracas, although he did not offer details.

The meeting comes after last week Trump and Pence received in the White House Fabiana Rosales, wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, head of the Legislative, who in January declared president in charge after considering Maduro as a "usurper" and is recognized by the United States.

The detainees are former President of Citgo José Ángel Pereira and ex-presidents Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cárdenas and José Luis Zambrano, the last five of whom are US nationals and Venezuelan citizens.

Veronica Fadell Weggemaan, the daughter of one of the detainees, thanked the US government for her support and said it "gives them hope", but lamented that the family has been "four weeks" without talking to her father.

Former Citgo executives were arrested in November 2017 during meetings that the US oil company held in Caracas.

They are accused of various corruption offenses such as misappropriation of public funds (own fraud), concert of public official with contractor, money laundering and illicit association, among others.

Citgo, based in Houston (Texas), has three refineries in the US. that together they process around 750,000 barrels of Venezuelan crude a day.

In January, days after Guaidó was proclaimed Venezuelan president and won the recognition of Washington, USA. imposed sanctions on PDVSA that included the blocking of Citgo funds with the aim of eventually transferring them to a new government.

Guaidó thus took control of Citgo with the support of Washington and appointed an alternate board to that of Maduro chaired by Luisa Palacios.


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