Two of six US-connected former executives of the oil company Citgo who were imprisoned in Venezuela have been released and put under house arrest, former US ambassador Bill Richardson said Thursday.
Richardson, a Democratic politician who has managed international negotiations for a number of high-profile US detainees, traveled in mid-July to Venezuela and met with President Nicolas Maduro, seeking to free the executives, who were first arrested in November 2017.
“We are relieved to hear today that Gustavo Cardenas and Jorge Toledo, two of the CITGO 6, have been released from prison and granted house arrest in Venezuela,” Richardson said in a statement.
In his message, Richardson thanked Maduro and Vice President Jorge Rodriguez “for this gesture and for continuing to engage in the productive dialogue on the American detainees.”
Five of the detainees are dual US-Venezuela nationals and the other is a US resident.
“This is a positive and important first step,” Richardson added.
The six are accused of crimes including money laundering. Their families scoff at the charges, saying that Maduro controls the judiciary and is notorious for corruption.
Roger Carstens, the US envoy for hostage affairs, said last month that all six men were “in mortal danger,” with several displaying symptoms in line with COVID-19.
Richardson, a former US ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of New Mexico, has repeatedly undertaken missions with US adversaries such as Iran and North Korea to free Americans.
In his July trip Richardson was also seeking to free two US military veterans who were detained amid a shady, failed sea attack on Venezuela in May.
The United States no longer recognizes Maduro as Venezuela’s president and has been trying unsuccessfully since early 2019 to oust the leftist leader, who presides over a crumbling economy that has caused millions to flee.
- Lebanon now rated as low as Venezuela after Moody’s rating cut to lowest grade
- Veteran US diplomat Richardson to meet Venezuela’s Maduro to discuss jailed Americans
- Iranian military-owned company opens supermarket in Venezuela: Report
- US seeks to seize gasoline in four Iran tankers bound for Venezuela