Citgo is the name of an oil refinery that has its base in Houston but is owned by Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. It got the name citgo 6 as six members of the executive team of the Citgo company were arrested in Venezuela without a proper trial. They have been detained since 2017 and were kept on house arrest on charges of embezzlement, which the detainees deny. The 6 detainees are American nationals and worked for the Citgo company as executives. The Venezuelan government lured the 6 executive members working for the said Venezuelan-based company with the excuses of a meeting and ended up pressing charges against them for embezzlement (an act of financial fraud which states that a person withholds money without making a record of the transaction). The detainees have since denied the charges but to no avail.

What did the Citgo 6 do?

This incident took place as a result of something that had links to one of the Venezuelan president’s close friends and confidants, Alex Saab. The 49-year-old is a close friend to Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro and is a Colombian financier who was caught in Cape Verde, off the West Coast of Africa during a fuel stop and is facing extradition in the USA.

In an indictment of laundering proceeds of violation of the FCPA aka the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a charge was filed against Saab.

He was charged along with Alvaro Pulido Vargas, aged 55, who is also a Colombian citizen, with eight-count indictments in total; one was a conspiracy to commit money laundering and the rest with committing money laundering which took place in Florida, USA. They were detained in Cape Verde at the request of the United States whereafter the minister of justice of Cape Verde surrendered Alex Saab and he arrived in the USA for extradition.

Who are the Citgo 6?

Citgo 6 has been used to refer to the six executive members of the Citgo Oil Refinery, a State-owned company of Venezuela, who went to Venezuela for a business meeting arranged by the government and were held ever since on charges of corruption whose case has not been executed so far. The six people that have been detained are – Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Jose Pareira, Hose Luis, Alirio Zambrano and Gustavo Cardenas.

The Venezuelan government has often been accused of using several means to blackmail the USA for its interests by detaining US citizens and nationals. Three other Americans namely Green Berets, Mark Denman, and Airen Berry are also currently serving sentences in Venezuela for some kind of involvement which states that they were plotting to overthrow the Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro and former US Marine Matthew Heath.

Current Status of US – Venezuela Relation

With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the USA along with the rest of NATO and a few other non-NATO members have sided with Ukraine. The price of crude oil has increased dramatically all over the globe as well as in Venezuela because of which it has sought to better its ties with the USA. As a result, one of the 6 people that were detained in 2017 has been released and sent back to the US. Gustavo Cardenas was the only one to be released so far and is awaiting the release of 5 other colleagues of his.

The government of Venezuela seeks to make its ties better with the USA as it looks to deduce the influence and support for Russia in Latin America and tackle the rising oil price. The USA looks forward to the release of the rest of the detainees amidst the global crisis.

A lawyer and vice president-director of Foro Penal, Gonzalo Himiob, said in a statement that when any action is taken by the governments of two countries based on their respective interests then it can be celebrated but at the same time, the respective governments need to be wary of the consequences of such agreements that can lead to in future, as in the case of Gustavo’s release.

Nevertheless, both the countries seem to be okay with each other’s support amidst the crisis in the European continent between Russia and the USA’s ally Ukraine wherein USA finds unity with its neighboring countries to be important for tackling the rising oil price as well the influence of Russia in Latin America.