CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan authorities granted house arrest to a worker at state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela who was detained nearly a year ago after criticizing President Nicolas Maduro in a meeting with company leadership, the worker’s family said on Tuesday.
Bartolo Guerra, a tugboat captain with more than 20 years of experience at PDVSA’s maritime unit, was arrested by military counterintelligence officials in the eastern city of Puerto La Cruz in May 2020. He had voiced concerns about corruption and poor work conditions, according to a union leader present at the meeting.
Guerra was released from jail and arrived home on Tuesday, according to his daughter, Yorgielys Guerra.
“We are happy about this, but we will keep fighting for him to have full freedom,” Yorgielys Guerra said in a telephone interview.
Opposition politicians have denounced widespread corruption at PDVSA, once the engine of the OPEC nation’s economy, which is now in its seventh year of collapse. Critics accuse Maduro of using the South American country’s justice system to stifle dissent.
Neither PDVSA, Venezuela’s chief prosecutor’s office, nor the oil or information ministries responded to requests for comment. Maduro insists his government is committed to combating corruption, and blames U.S. sanctions on PDVSA – part of Washington’s push to oust him from power – for its struggles.
Authorities have not commented publicly on Guerra’s release.
Late last year, Venezuelan authorities arrested several oil workers’ union leaders on charges of terrorism and divulging confidential information, which other union leaders characterized as a crackdown on dissent. Other union officials have fled the country for fear of arrest.
Two PDVSA managers convicted of divulging confidential information were granted house arrest earlier this year. A former oil minister and PDVSA President, Eulogio Del Pino, is in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges.
Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Marguerita Choy