Vice President Mike Pence will meet Tuesday at the White House with families of six Citgo executives — five of whom are U.S. citizens — who have been detained by the Maduro government in Venezuela.
White House officials said Pence will demand the release of “the wrongfully detained American citizens” and also call on Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally. As of December 2018, there were more than 280 known political prisoners in Venezuela, according to the U.S. government.
“The vice president will make it clear once again: Maduro must go!” a White House official said. “The Trump administration stands with the people of Venezuela, and will continue to take decisive actions targeting the Maduro regime until democracy, freedom and human rights are restored in Venezuela.”
Those invited include the family of then-acting Citgo President Jose Pereira, U.S. officials said. The meeting is the most recent effort by the Trump administration to keep attention on the Venezuelan crisis and increase pressure on Maduro’s government, which the United States wants to see fall.
Last week, President Donald Trump and Pence met the wife of Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan leader whom the White House has embraced as the interim president.
Venezuelan authorities on Nov. 21 arrested Citgo executives Pereira, Tomeu Vadell, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano and Gustavo Cardenas and charged them with embezzlement, contract malfeasance and money laundering. They are being held at a Caracas detention center run by the Venezuelan Military Counterintelligence Division, according to the U.S. government.
The White House did not give specific details about which family members will meet with Pence or whether children will attend. But officials said the family members will also meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department following the vice president’s meeting.