Six American oil executives who have been jailed in Venezuela for more than three years were granted house arrest Friday in a move interpreted as an effort to offer an olive branch to the White House as it reviews its policy toward the country, The Hill learns.
Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cardenas and Jose Pereira were first detained by masked security agents in November 2017. They had traveled to the country to attend a meeting with Citgo’s parent, state-run oil firm PDVSA.
Their partial releases were confirmed to The Associated Press by the men’s family members.
The six men were granted house arrest in December 2019 only to be thrown back behind bars two months later. Their detention in early 2020 came as then-President Trump met with opposition leader Juan Guaidó at the White House.
The men were ultimately convicted in 2020 on embezzlement charges, though the seriousness of the trial was thrown into question over delays and irregularities. Their partial release comes as administration officials meet to discuss how to deal with Venezuela, a dictatorship that has quashed an opposition movement that appeared close to taking power last year.
Among the options on the table are maintaining harsh sanctions that have further crippled Venezuela’s economy.
Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, told the AP this week that he wanted to see “concrete steps by the regime, not words” from strongman Nicolás Maduro.