Pence Demands Release of Citgo Executives Detained in Venezuela

(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday demanded the release of six Citgo Petroleum Corp. executives detained by President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela as he met with members of their families Tuesday at the White House.

“They’re being held illegally,” Pence said. “This regime should release all political prisoners.”

Pence said the Trump administration is considering unspecified “strong action” against Cuba, a Maduro ally, to pressure Caracas.

The meeting convened by Pence is the latest public event the White House is using to ratchet up pressure on the Venezuelan government. Last week, President Donald Trump met with Fabiana Rosales, the wife of Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. and other nations have recognized as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, and called for the removal of Russian military forces assisting the Maduro government.

The Citgo executives, which included former acting President Jose Pereira and five top-ranking managers, were arrested in 2017 and accused of the illegal issuance of as much as $4 billion in contracts. Venezuelan prosecutors allege the group -- which includes five American citizens -- engaged in money laundering and embezzlement involving the state-owned oil company.

The family members are expected to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department after the White House event.

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