Venezuela releases former Citgo executives to house arrest

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Citgo oil executives Jose Angel Pereira, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano were jailed in Venezuela more than three years ago on corruption charges.

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Venezuela released six former Citgo executives from prison, placing them under house arrest Friday as a goodwill gesture to President Biden, according to reports.

The executives from the US oil refining company were arrested in 2017, accused of embezzlement and money laundering and last year received sentences ranging from eight to 13 years in prison.

It’s the second time they have been released to house arrest. In December 2019 the so-called Citgo 6 were released to house arrest only to be returned to jail two months later.

The executives — Jose Pereira, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell and Gustavo Cardenas — were hauled away by masked men after being summoned to a meeting at the Caracas headquarters of state-run oil giant PDVSA in November 2017.

PDVSA's U.S. unit Citgo Petroleum refinery is pictured in Sulphur, Louisiana, U.S., June 12, 2018
The Citgo executives were accused of embezzlement and money laundering.
REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/File Photo

“I’m happy my brothers will sleep in a better place tonight, but the job is not finished until they are back home in the USA,” Alirio Rafael Zambrano, the brother of Jose Luis Zambrano and Alirio Jose Zambrano, wrote on Twitter.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was among those working behind the scenes to convince the government of President Nicolas Maduro to release the former executives. All but one of them are dual US-Venezuelan nationals.

The corporate logos of the state oil company PDVSA and Citgo Petroleum Corp are seen in Caracas, Venezuela April 30, 2018
Venezuela placed six former executives of the US refining company Citgo under house arrest for the second time.
REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

“This is a positive and important step that should help secure their well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak in Venezuela,” said Richardson in a statement Friday.

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