Venezuela released at least two jailed U.S. citizens on Tuesday, people familiar with the matter said, in an apparent goodwill gesture toward the Biden administration following a visit to Caracas by a high-level U.S. delegation.
One of the freed prisoners was Gustavo Cardenas, among six Citgo oil executives arrested in 2017 and convicted on charges the U.S. government says were fabricated, four sources told Reuters. The other was a Cuban American, identified as Jorge Alberto Fernández, detained on unrelated charges, according to two of the sources.
The weekend visit by the U.S. delegation focused not only on the fate of detained Americans but on the possibility of easing U.S. oil sanctions on the OPEC member to fill a supply gap if President Joe Biden banned Russian oil imports in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine – something he did on Tuesday. Venezuela is Russia’s closest ally in South America.
There was no immediate word on the whereabouts of the released men though they were expected to be flown to the United States without delay.
Washington has sought the release of at least nine men, including those known as the “Citgo 6,” two former Green Berets and a former U.S. Marine.
The freeing of the two could set a more positive tone for talks between the United States and Venezuela, which have had hostile relations through successive American administrations.