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Venezuela arrests US oil executives after Guaidó meets Trump

EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER
President of the National Assembly of Venezuela Juan Guaido (R) and President Donald J. Trump (L) walk together along the West Wing Colonnade at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 05 February 2020. Guaido and Trump will have a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office.

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Six American oil executives who were under house arrest in Venezuela have been rounded up by police just hours after US President Donald Trump met Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó at the White House.
After disputing president Nicolas Maduro‘s 2018 controversial re-election, Guaidó proclaimed himself the country’s interim president, and was backed by almost 60 countries, including the EU, the US and UK.
Maduro condemned Trump’s embrace of Guaidó. Under Maduro’s leadership, Venezuela has suffered an economic collapse. More than 4 million citizens have fled the country, many to Colombia.
The brother of two of the six detained men, Alirio Zambrano, said on Thursday that the executives of Citgo were taken from their homes last night by the SEBIN intelligence police. Citgo is a Venezuelan-owned oil company whose headquarters are based in Texas.
The SEBIN is Venezuela’s intelligence service, controlled by Maduro, who has the support of the armed forces, as well as of his allies China, Russia, Iran, the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, and Cuba.
Zambrano added that their current whereabouts are unknown: “We demand to know they are safe but more importantly their freedom!,” he said on social media.
The six men were taken by masked security agents while at a meeting in Caracas in 2017. They had been lured to Venezuela in order to attend a meeting at the headquarters of Citgo’s parent, state-run oil giant PDVSA. Media reported that they granted house arrest two months ago in the attempt of Maduro’s government to mend ties with the Trump administration.
They are awaiting trial on corruption charges stemming from a never executed plan to refinance some $4 billion in Citgo bonds by offering a 50% stake in the company as collateral.
The State Department later confirmed that Citgo execs were arrested by Maduro’s secret police and incarcerated in Helicoide Prison.
“We condemn this cruel and indefensible action and demand that their long, unjust detention come to an end and they be allowed to leave Venezuela. We urge the regime to release unconditionally all persons who are being detained, including National Assembly deputies,” said Elliot Abrams, US special representative for Venezuela.
There has been no comment from Venezuelan officials.

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