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After White House Meeting, Oil Execs Put in Caracas Prison

Top US envoy to Venezuela calls timing of move 'suspicious'
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2020 9:46 AM CST
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In this Feb. 15, 2019, file photo, Dennysse Vadell sits between her daughters Veronica, right, and Cristina holding a digital photograph of father and husband Tomeu, who is currently jailed in Venezuela with five other executives from Houston-based Citgo, in Katy, Texas, Friday.   (AP Photo/John L Mone, File, File)

(Newser) – The situation has apparently worsened for six executives from Houston-based and Venezuela-owned Citgo who have been detained without trial in Venezuela since November 2017. The Wall Street Journal reports Elliott Abrams, the top US envoy to the country, on Thursday said the men had been abruptly taken once more to prison, likely the Helicoide prison in Caracas, after having been under house arrest since December. The AP notes the move came just hours after President Trump hosted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's main rival, Juan Guaido, at the White House. The move deflated recent rumors that the men might soon be released as a way to placate the Trump administration, which has supported a year-long campaign to have Maduro removed from office.

The men are due to stand trial on what their families say are trumped-up corruption charges. The men were reportedly lured from Texas and Louisiana to Caracas in 2017 for a last-minute meeting and then arrested in a conference room, reports the Houston Chronicle. Five are naturalized US citizens and the other a legal resident. The AP reports a Venezuelan judge has postponed a preliminary hearing in their case 15 times, and says many suspect they "are being held as political bargaining chips." As for the timing of the move, Abrams called it "suspicious," reports the Corpus Christi Caller Times, but said he "can't speculate as to why it happened now."

(Read more Venezuela stories.)

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