American oil executives imprisoned in Venezuela face ‘hell on earth’
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November 27, 2020 | 6:04pm

Prison has been “hell on earth” for six American oil executives swept up in a bogus corruption case in Venezuela, a brother to two of the men told The Post Friday, a day after they were sentenced.

Already, his brothers have been imprisoned for three years, Alirio Jose Zambrano told The Post, speaking by phone from his home in Mountain Lakes, NJ.

Then came a closed-court trial that started in August and ended Thursday, with his brothers slammed with five-year terms.

“Last night, Thanksgiving night, at around six p.m. our lawyer called and gave us the bad news,” Zambrano, 47, said of learning of the conviction of his brothers Alirio Jose, 56, and Jose Luis, 54, both of Houston.

The pair and their colleagues, who work for CITGO, have been behind bars ever since being summoned to Caracas for a meeting that wound up stormed by military police.

“The first two years were really hell on earth,” Zambrano said of his brothers’ imprisonment in a military prison he said is “known for torture and human rights violations.”

A year ago, they were briefly allowed out on house arrest, he said — but they were hauled into custody again in February, this time to a jail for political prisoners, where they remained at the time of Thursday’s conviction, he said.

“We really don’t know what they want,” Zambrano said of the regime of Nicolas Maduro.

President of Venezuela Nicolas MaduroAnadolu Agency via Getty Images

“Obviously all the chartes are made up,” he said. “None of the so-called evidence is connected to my brothers,” he said of the case, which accuses the six of corruption relating to a proposed debt refinancing deal for the oil giant that never even took place.

“My brother Alirio was a refinery manager,” Zambrano said.

“My other brother was head of HR and information technology,” he said.

“They put a man that is running a refining facility and an HR director on trial for a financial deal they had nothing to do with.”

Zambrano, who also works in the oil industry, and his brothers are naturalized American citizens who immigrated to the US more than 20 years ago, along with their parents, a fourth brother, and two sisters, he said.

They all have families; Alirio has three daughters and Jose Luis has two daughters, Zambrano said.

The family will pursue an appeal of Thursday’s conviction and sentencing, but fears that only a diplomatic solution will free the brothers.

“What we assume is that the regime may want something in return for them,” he said of the six oil executives.

“But definitely, it has nothing to do with justice. It is all to do with some political game. It’s just really heartbreaking.”

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