Venezuela transferred six U.S. oil leaders to house arrest on Friday as the Biden administration flooded the next steps in its relationship with Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime.
Managers – Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cardenas and Jose Pereira – are employees of Houston-based oil company Citgo. They were placed under house arrest more than three years after being detained during a trip to Venezuela for a meeting at Citgo’s parent company, the state-owned oil company PDVSA.
“This is a positive and important step to help ensure their well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak in Venezuela,”
At the time of their conviction, the U.S. State Department referred to the case as a “kangaroo court.” The men originally received sentences of eight to 13 years in prison.
Earlier this week, top administration officials met to assess U.S. relations with the Maduro regime. Officials were to discuss whether to soften sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry and potential steps toward promoting a dialogue between Maduro and the country’s opposition leaders, sources told the Associated Press.
Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the United States was one of dozens of countries that recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president and demanded that Maduro resign following contested election results. The Trump administration imposed severe sanctions on top officials in Venezuela’s government and oil industry.
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Earlier this year, a White House official told Reuters that Biden was not “in a hurry to lift sanctions against the Venezuelan government, but would consider softening his stance if the Maduro regime takes action against a decision.”
In March, the Biden administration said it would offer temporary legal status to Venezuelans who entered the United States illegally while fleeing the country’s economic crisis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.