Venezuela on Friday transferred six U.S. oil executives to house arrest as the Biden administration considered the next steps in its relationship with the socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro.
The executives – 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 under house arrest more than three years after being detained while traveling to Venezuela for a meeting at Citgo’s parent company, state-owned oil company PDVSA.
“This is a positive and important step that should help ensure their well-being during the COVID-19 epidemic in Venezuela,” said former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has led efforts to do so. pressure on the Venezuelan authorities to release the Americans.
At the time of their sentencing, the US State Department called the proceedings a “kangaroo court”. The men were initially sentenced to terms ranging from eight to 13 years in prison.
Earlier this week, senior officials in the Biden administration met to assess the United States’ relationship with the Maduro regime. Officials were due to discuss whether to ease sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry and potential steps to foster dialogue between Maduro and the country’s opposition leaders, sources told The Associated Press.
Under the administration of former President Donald Trump, the United States was one of dozens of countries that recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela and demanded the resignation of Maduro at the following contested election results. The Trump administration has imposed severe sanctions on senior officials in Venezuela’s government and oil industry.
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Earlier this year, a White House official told Reuters that Biden was “in no rush” to lift sanctions on the Venezuelan government, but that he would consider easing his stance if Maduro’s regime took any action. steps to reach a resolution.
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.
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