In November, six American oil executives were found guilty of corruption and given lengthy prison sentences in Venezuela, following a detention that had already stretched out for three years. Now, a bit of a reprieve for the "Citgo 6," in what the AP reports is a "gesture of goodwill" toward the Biden administration. The family members of Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Gustavo Cardenas, and Jose Pereira confirm to the news agency that the men have been released on house arrest, with a source telling the Wall Street Journal they're being held in Caracas. The families of the men—five naturalized US citizens and a US resident—say their prison conditions have been unbearable, with the men suffering from severe weight loss. In November 2017, the executives were lured to Caracas for a business meeting at the headquarters of PDVSA, the parent company of the Houston-based Citgo, then taken away by masked security agents.
The men were charged with embezzlement, money laundering, and conspiracy, and after their convictions last year, they received prison sentences ranging from eight to 13 years, per Reuters. The men continue to profess their innocence. Their detention has been a bone of contention between Venezuela and DC: The Trump administration called President Nicolas Maduro a dictator, imposed tough oil sanctions against the country, and demanded the men be released from prison, citing COVID-19. Maduro seems to want to improve ties with the Biden administration. The men had been placed on house arrest once before, in December 2019, but were returned to prison two months later after then-President Trump met with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. "I'm happy my brothers will sleep in a better place tonight, but the job is not finished until they are back home in the USA," Alirio Rafael Zambrano, brother of two of the executives, posted on Twitter. (Read more Venezuela stories.)