US demands release of 6 Citgo executives detained in Venezuela

Washingto : The United States on Monday demanded the Venezuelan government to release six executives working in Citgo Petroleum Corp in the Latin American country who have been detained for close to two years.

“These men are suffering serious health conditions and must be released immediately,” State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Citgo is a US-based refiner and marketer of transport fuels and petrochemicals owned by PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company.

The six officials were arrested in November 2017 on charges of corruption, treason and embezzlement, Anadolu News Agency reported.

“(Nicolas) Maduro loyalists continue to prevent the families and attorneys of American prisoners from assisting with basic access to food and medicine, without regard for mental health and general well-being of those detained. These affronts to basic dignity will not be ignored,” the statement said.

It further noted that the safety and welfare of American nationals overseas are among the State Department’s highest priorities.

Venezuela plunged into a deep political crisis in January after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself as the country’s interim President amid throngs of cheering supporters who called for Maduro to step down.

The US immediately extended its support to Guaido, followed by nations like Canada and the UK. However, countries like Russia and China showed support for Maduro and slammed the US for its external interference in Venezuela.

While Maduro took office for a second term in January after winning the last year’s presidential election, the international community has termed the polls as a “show” and “rigged”.

Washington has been pursuing a policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the Maduro government in support of Guaido.