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State Department demands release of Citgo execs held in Venezuela

Six American oil executives who were granted house arrest after being in a Venezuelan prison have been imprisoned again. 

Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cardenas and Jose Pereira, employees of Houston-based Citgo, were hauled away by masked security agents while at a meeting in Caracas in November 2017. They had been lured to Venezula to attend a meeting at Citgo’s parent PDVSA.

The six were held in a Venezuelan prison for two years on corruption charges before being granted house arrest in December 2019.

The men, known as the “Citgo Six,” are awaiting trial. The corruption charges stem from a plan to refinance about $4 billion in Citgo bonds by offering a 50% stake in the company. The plan was never executed. 

Alirio Zambrano

“We’ve learned that the Citgo six have been taken from house arrest by the regime’s intelligence agency, SEBIN,” Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s special representative for Venezuela, told reporters on Thursday. “We believe they’re now detained at its Helicoide prison.”

The U.S. condemns “this cruel and indefensible action and demand that their long unjust detention come to an end and they be allowed to leave Venezuela,” he said.

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