Venezuela moves US oil executives to Caracas prison

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WASHINGTON – Venezuelan authorities arrested US oil executives under house arrest in Caracas on Wednesday night and transferred them to a prison, the main US envoy to Venezuela said Thursday.

Top US Envoy UU.

Elliott Abrams

He said it is believed that the six Citgo employees, who have been detained since 2017 without trial, were transferred to Helicoide Prison in Caracas.

“We condemn this cruel and indefensible action and demand that their long and unjust detention come to an end and that they also be allowed to leave,” Abrams said.

Oil executives have been accused of corruption in Venezuela in connection with a planned financing agreement of $ 4 billion with US investment funds. UU. And Dubai Five are naturalized US citizens, while the sixth is a permanent legal resident.

Abrams described them as political prisoners and asked Venezuela to release them.

The crowded Helicoide prison, controlled by the Venezuelan intelligence police, was the site of a big riot in 2018 during which political prisoners videotaped cell phone videos desperately asking for help.

Venezuelan officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Citgo, owned by Venezuela, said the company continues to support the Trump administration’s efforts to ensure the release of its employees. The retained Citgo executives include the company’s interim executive director,

Jose Pereira

and vice president, Tomeu Vadell.

“Citgo believes that the detention of these men violates their fundamental human rights, including the right to due process of law,” the firm said in a statement.

The family of Citgo executive Tomeu Vadell with his photo in Katy, Texas, on February 15.


Photo:

John L Mone / Associated Press

Abrams said that Guaido’s reception in Washington this week, which included attending the State of the Union as a special guest of the president and first lady, demonstrated the United States’s commitment to democracy in Venezuela.

The Trump administration has supported Mr. Guaidó during the past year, leveling a series of sanctions against the regime’s officials and Venezuela’s main legal export, oil, in an effort to force the country’s authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro, to give up.

Maduro has successfully evaded the sanctions of the United States with the help of Russia, India and other nations. It also recently granted companies more freedom to operate and allowed US dollars to circulate freely in an additional attempt to reduce the severe pressure of US sanctions.

Abrams warned that the United States could soon punish those involved in the sanctioned trade.

“As several administration officials have pointed out, the Russians will soon discover that their continued support for Maduro will no longer be free,” Abrams said. “Others who continue to benefit or support Maduro should take warning.”

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moscow previously said it opposed US interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

The United States and more than 50 other countries recognize Mr. Guaidó, the leader of the democratically elected national assembly, as the legitimate president of the country.

Write to Jessica Donati at jessica.donati@wsj.com

Corrections and Amplifications
An appointment attributed to the principal sent from the USA. UU., Elliott Abrams, called for the termination of the “unjust and prolonged detention” of six Citgo employees. The quote in an earlier version of this article incorrectly read “long and unfair attention.”

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