Lawmakers in Venezuela have upheld the charges against six U.S. oil executives jailed for corruption. The executives from the Houston-based Citgo oil company have been held for more than four years, and many believe they are being used as “political pawns in hostilities between the U.S. and Venezuela.”
According to the Associated Press, the men, known as the Citgo 6, were arrested in 2017 and charged with corruption in connection to a plan to refinance millions of dollars worth of bonds. They were sentenced in 2020.
Despite a lengthy process of appeals, the Supreme Court in Venezuela has now upheld the six men’s charges.
Jose Pereira, a former CEO of Citgo Petroleum Corp, was sentenced to 13 years and 7 months. Five other men were also sentenced to eight years and 10 months in prison, including Tomeu Vadell, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cardenas, Jose Zambrano and Alirio Zambrano.
“The U.S. has repeatedly called for their release and harshly criticized their detention and conviction as lacking all semblance of due process.
“Seen by many as political pawns in hostilities between the U.S. and Venezuela, the men have twice before been granted house arrest.”
All six men were initially granted house arrest in February 2020, but were thrown back into prison “hours” after former president Donald Trump invited Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition party, to the White House.
In April 2021, the men were again granted house arrest. But AP reports that this arrangement ended in October 2021 after a “close ally” of Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, was extradited by the African nation of Cape Verde to the U.S. to face money laundering charges.
Many had hoped the six men would be released by the courts in Venezuela, according to Bloomberg, as an act of a “goodwill gesture to unfreeze relations with the government of U.S. President Joe Biden.”