In a retaliatory move, Venezuelan officials moved six oil executives with Houston-based Citgo from house arrest to prison the day after the State of the Union — first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The retaliation comes after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó met with President Trump and attended the State of the Union speech. Guaidó is the U.S.-recognized Venezuelan leader.
After the New Year, disputed president Nicolás Maduro’s Bolivarian National Guards seized control of Venezuela’s parliament to prevent Guaidó from entering and assuming control. This all comes after years of unrest as Venezuela’s economy tumbles and its people starve under Maduro’s socialist rule.
It’s also seen as a light-proxy war between Washington and Moscow with Maduro being backed by the Kremlin.
The Citgo employees have been held without trial since 2017 and are charged with corruption surrounding a finance deal between Dubai and the U.S. worth $4 billion.
Of the six, five are U.S. citizens and one a legal permanent resident. The group is believed to have been transferred to the cruel and overcrowded Helicoide prison in Caracas.
Special U.S. envoy to Venezuela, Eliot Abrams, told the WSJ, “We condemn this cruel and indefensible action and demand their long unjust detention come to an end and they be allowed to leave as well.”
Citgo said, “Citgo believes that the detention of these men violates their fundamental human rights, including the right to due process under law,” in a statement to the WSJ.
Helicoide prison is a detainment facility for political prisoners. Prisoners have described its horrors as “people being beaten, electrocuted, hung by their limbs, forced into stress positions and forced to plunge their face into a bag of feces and breathe in.”
Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.