Did Venezuela release one of the Citgo 6 held in prison?

Did Venezuela release one of the Citgo 6 held in prison?
AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

Has one of the Citgo 6 been released from prison in Venezuela? According to the Wall Street Journal, sources say that Gustavo Cárdenas was released on Tuesday, though his wife said she has not received the news.

Maria Elena Cárdenas said she hasn’t been told of her husband’s release. People familiar with the situation say that the release of another American is in the works. Ed wrote about the six former Citgo executives this week who are being held in prison in Venezuela over charges of alleged corruption. They have been held since 2017. The six men were in Caracas to attend a meeting with Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA, the parent company of Citgo. They were arrested in the conference room and taken away.

The family of Mr. Cárdenas lives in Houston. His youngest son has a rare degenerative disease so it would be especially welcome news if he has indeed been released. Five of the Citgo 6, including Cardenas, are naturalized U.S. citizens.

Joe Biden’s desire to purchase oil and petroleum products from the worst dictators in the world instead of drilling for oil and gas right here in the United States is a disgusting turn of events. Not only does it put money in the coffers of President Nicolas Maduro and his evil regime but Venezuelan oil is some of the dirtiest in the international oil and gas industry. The news of Biden’s decision to look into the possibility of purchasing oil from Venezuela was particularly galling to Americans familiar with the imprisonment of the six former oil executives. The least Team Biden could do would be to insist they be released as part of any negotiations. Also, there are U.S. servicemen being held in Venezuela. Their release should also be included in any talks of lifting sanctions.

“The fact that the U.S. is talking to Venezuela gives the families hope,” said Mark Denman, brother of Luke Denman, a serviceman jailed in Venezuela after being accused of taking part in a 2020 failed incursion to unseat Mr. Maduro. “The only way that our guys are coming home is if there’s a U.S. invasion or Maduro releases them. And there’s not going to be an invasion. You have to have some sort of talks.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Biden administration officials “surprised” many Venezuelan opposition leaders when they arrived in Caracas over the weekend. They came to talk about lifting sanctions on the oil industry. Team Biden included Roger Carstens, the U.S. presidential envoy for hostage affairs. They demand that the Citgo 6 be released as well as three servicemen. If Biden is hellbent to continue to destroy the American oil and gas industry in favor of enriching brutal dictators, lets hope his team of negotiators remain resolute to at least get the prisoners released before they sign on the dotted line.

Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019 after its presidential election. Sanctions were imposed on its oil industry, the primary source of financing the government. The election was called a sham. Maduro won, as dictators do, but the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the president. There was hope that Maduro would be forced out of power as the country collapsed into financial chaos but that hasn’t been the case. Maduro is still there and the head of Venezuela’s government. More than six million people have left Venezuela seeking refuge in other countries, including the United States, yet Maduro is becoming stronger than ever.

It will be a disaster if Maduro benefits from the sale of oil and the lifting of sanctions. Historically, Joe Biden has been wrong on foreign policy decisions throughout his very long career in politics. It looks like he intends to continue that record. We have to hope the men held in prison are released and make it back to the United States safely.

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