CITGO oil executives Jose Angel Pereira, from left to right, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano, standing outside the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, in Caracas, Venezuela.
A Venezuelan kangaroo court just found six executives of state-owned Citgo guilty of corruption and gave them prison sentences ranging from eight to 13 years. The real crime? Five have dual US-Venezuelan citizenship, and the sixth has lawful US residency.
It was back in November 2017 that the “Citgo 6” — Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Jose Pereira — were called to Caracas by their corporate superior, supposedly for an urgent budget meeting. But armed and masked security agents greeted them with arrest.
The regime charged them with embezzlement in connection with a plan to refinance $4 billon in Citgo bonds by offering a 50 percent stake in the company as collateral. Yet the plan never went live, and the men claim their innocence. Tellingly, “President” Nicolás Maduro has accused them of treason as any semblance of a trial was repeatedly called off for years.
Per their families and State Department official Elliott Abrams, they’ve been stuck “in a Venezuelan military prison in deplorable conditions,” in windowless basement cells. Lack of exercise, sunlight and adequate food has left them suffering severe weight loss and other serious health problems.
Sadly, near-starvation is the norm in Venezuela, as the regime has tanked the economy to Third World levels. But these men are Americans.
As we noted the other day, the Trump administration has done pretty well at bringing home Americans held captive by overseas thugs and tyrants. Here are six more who should be a top priority for the Biden team.