A few hours after Juan Guaido met with President Trump at the White House this week, Venezuela’s intelligence service arrested five American citizens (and one permanent resident) who were oil executives with CITGO. The executives have been detained in the country for two years:
The “CITGO 6” — Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira — were taken by the Maduro regime’s intelligence services from their separate house arrest locations, according to several family members, Vadell’s legal team, and the State Department. According to the legal team, they were removed “without warnings or judicial order” and are being held together in the same cell at El Heliocoide prison, even though “the house arrest has not been revoked by the appropriate court.”
“Lawyers and relatives were not informed, and the only information shared by the SEBIN officials on duty was that [they were taken away] ‘for medical checks,'” the lawyers’ statement said referring to the Venezuelan intelligence service…
Family members who spoke with CNN said they are concerned about the safety and well-being of the CITGO 6.
“We’re just really stressed out,” Jorge Toledo’s son Carlos Gustavo said Thursday. “We have no idea how my dad’s doing, if he has access to food or water.”
The six men all worked for CITGO, the US arm of Venezuela’s PDVSA oil company. They were arrested at a corporate meeting in November 2017 and denounced as “traitors” by President Maduro:
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday that Venezuelan-American executives at refiner Citgo who were arrested in a corruption sweep this week would be tried as “corrupt, thieving traitors” despite a request by the United States to free them…
The six executives included acting Citgo President Jose Pereira, who has Venezuelan citizenship and U.S. permanent residency, the source said. Citgo did not respond to requests for comment.
Late on Wednesday, Maduro tapped Asdrubal Chavez, a former oil minister and cousin of the late president Hugo Chavez, to replace Pereira.
All six men remained in a military prison until last December when they were suddenly released and put under house arrest. The decision to re-arrest them hours after Maduro’s rival met with President Trump seems like a message though there’s no official connection at this point. U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams called the timing of the arrests “suspicious.”
None of the men have had a trial yet.