Nelson Martinez, the jailed former head of Venezuela’s state-run oil large PDVSA who was arrested final yr as a part of anti-corruption purge, died in state custody Wednesday, authorities stated.

The chief prosecutor’s workplace stated Martinez suffered from a critical and persistent sickness that led to his demise at a medical facility the place he was present process remedy.

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The demise is prone to focus consideration on the situations wherein authorities are holding key opponents and former authorities officers. Martinez died two months after a Caracas councilman, Fernando Alban, fell to his demise from a high-rise police constructing in what the federal government classifies a suicide however which the opposition insists was homicide.

Martinez, who additionally served as oil minister, was arrested final yr together with dozens of different executives and officers as a part of an anti-corruption purge at PDVSA led by socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

On the time, Venezuela’s high prosecutor stated Martinez conspired with one other former PDVSA president, Eulogio del Pino, to embezzle state funds by means of unauthorized financing offers by PDVSA’s U.S. subsidiary, Citgo. Martinez headed the Houston-based Citgo between 2013 and 2017.

Rafael Ramirez, who was Martinez’s boss earlier than being pushed out himself as head of PDVSA, stated his former colleague by no means wished to imagine management of the oil monopoly, understanding it will take a toll on his well being after he underwent open coronary heart surgical procedure a number of years again.

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However Martinez was pressured into taking the job by Maduro, Ramirez stated in an interview, including that he had personally knowledgeable the president of Martinez’s coronary heart drawback.

“This demise is Maduro’s duty,” stated Ramirez, who angrily broke with the federal government final yr amid accusations that he additionally was stealing from PDVSA. “The saddest factor is he did not know why he was being held.”

Corruption has lengthy been rampant in Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves, however officers are not often held accountable — a significant irritant to residents struggling to eat three meals a day amid widespread shortages and seven-digit inflation.

The U.S.-educated Martinez, an trade veteran, was changed at PDVSA by a military common with no earlier expertise within the oil sector.

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Ramirez stated the federal government tries to maintain its jailed political opponents protected for concern of sparking a global outcry. However he stated the handfuls arrested as a part of the oil trade purge final yr, together with 5 former Citgo executives with U.S. passports, have largely been forgotten and are seen unfairly as one thing lower than political prisoners as a result of they’ve been charged with corruption.

He stated Martinez was being held in isolation at a navy intelligence headquarters in Caracas and had been repeatedly denied visits from his household medical doctors, resulting in melancholy that had worsened after he grew to become sick with kidney issues a number of weeks in the past.

“It is as if the PDVSA prisoners do not exist,” stated Ramirez, who has been residing in exile since resigning as Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations final yr.


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