President Nicolás Maduro assured this Wednesday, February 17, that six former CITGO executives sentenced by the Venezuelan courts for committing “serious crimes” are Venezuelan citizens and the fact that they also have US citizenship [after naturalization] does not authorize them to “steal public money.”
At a press conference with international correspondents, Maduro was asked about the possibility of releasing US citizens—former officials of the Venezuelan oil company and others— “as a sign of goodwill” between his administration and that of Joe Biden, as a step towards a possible dialogue with Washington. Venezuela’s president explained that although he was not a “prosecutor” or “judge” and it was not his responsibility to pronounce on the issue, the so-called “CITGO five” are Venezuelans and had committed crimes without losing their nationality, even if they had acted as agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
“Every time I hear from the United States that they want us to release the ‘CITGO five,’ I only think that there are five Venezuelans, more Venezuelans than us,” said Maduro. “The thing is, they began to work as agents of the Central Intelligence Agency… infiltrated in CITGO. They worked as US agents, and the United States gives them the attention of a US agent imprisoned abroad. That’s the truth, but they are Venezuelans,” he explained.
Maduro commented that dialogue and diplomacy were “one thing,” for which “there will always be space,” to be distinguished from “the case of those who have committed crimes in Venezuela,” which is the responsibility of Venezuelan judicial authorities.
In his speech, Maduro acknowledged that three US citizens were effectively convicted in Venezuela for their confessed and proven participation in various crimes against the Republic. Analysts argue that top US officials under Trump’s administration paid more attention to the Venezuelan criminals than to those captured in mercenary activities who were genuine US citizens by birth.
“Two US citizens, ‘Marines,’ participated in Operation Gideon,” recalled President Maduro. “They confessed and were convicted. They availed themselves of the rights of denunciation and confession to gain some benefit in the sentencing, and as everyone knows, they confessed—videos were publicly released—that they came to kill me, they came to kill the president of Venezuela.” The third, who was caught “spying to launch a bomb attack on one of the refineries in Falcón state,” is also a US agent, the president explained.
Previously, Maduro insisted on the willingness of his government to dialogue with whoever was interested—including officials from the recently installed Biden government—on the basis of mutual respect and the self-determination of the peoples.
“Nobody in the 21st century, nobody in the world, no matter how powerful a country may be, can claim the right to want to govern another country, to want to impose rules on another country, to want to tell another country if it is democratic or not,” said Maduro. “The world of the 21st century has to be the world of respect for the self-determination of peoples, of the independence of States, of international law. So within this framework of international law, there will always be room for dialogue.”
The Venezuelan attorney general, Tarek Saab, explained that upon being apprehended in July 2017 the former executives signed a million-dollar agreement to refinance CITGO’s debt under unfavorable conditions for Venezuela, and that they compromised company assets by placing them as collateral without approval from Caracas.
Former Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, and former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had made statements on several occasions demanding that Venezuela release José Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cárdenas and José Pereira, alleging medical concerns, even after they were granted house arrest in December 2019.
Featured image: Six Venezuelan CITGO executives sentenced in 2019 for corruption and currently under house arrest. File photo.
(La IguanaTV) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune