The United States is holding accountable the Venezuelan judge and prosecutor who took part in the November 2020 trial and sentencing of six executives from the Houston-based oil company Citgo. Known as the Citgo 6, Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira were sentenced from 8 to 13 years in prison.
In 2017, the Citgo 6 were tricked into attending a last-minute business meeting in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Shortly after their arrival, masked security agents raided the boardroom, detained the men and threw them into the notorious Helicoide prison.
“These Americans,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement, “have been unjustly imprisoned in Venezuela since November 2017 after being lured to Caracas under false pretenses.”
In August, trials finally began for the six men after being detained for almost 1,000 days. Two officials of the illegitimate Maduro regime, Judge Lorena Carolina Cornielles Ruiz and Prosecutor Ramon Antonio Torres Espinoza, played critical roles in the kangaroo court trials of each of the Citgo executives. These proceedings were marred by a lack of fair trial guarantees and based on politically motivated charges. The trial was not public as guaranteed by the Venezuelan constitution, and media and human rights groups were denied access.
“The wrongful detention and sentencing of these six U.S. persons further demonstrate how corruption and abuse of power are deeply embedded in Venezuela’s institutions,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The United States remains committed to protecting its citizens and targeting those who contribute to the illegitimate Maduro regime’s usurpation of power in Venezuela.”
“These six men and their families have suffered long enough,” declared Secretary Pompeo. “It is time for Maduro to release the Citgo 6 and let them be reunited with their families.