June 6, 2018 / 8:22 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Venezuela frees Chevron executives held since April -sources

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By Corina Pons

CARACAS, June 6 (Reuters) - Venezuela has released two local executives of Chevron Corp jailed two months ago during a corruption probe in the oil sector, a local consultancy and a source close to the U.S. oil major said on Wednesday.

"The two Chevron managers, Carlos Algarra and Rene Vasquez, detained in April this year in the Puerto La Cruz offices were freed," financial consultants Ecoanalitica tweeted, saying it was unclear if conditions were put on the pair's release.

Ecoanalitica gave no more details, and there was no immediate confirmation from Chevron. But a source close to Chevron confirmed the release to Reuters, saying the executives had to report into authorities every 15 days. The two are Venezuelan citizens.

The arrests, in a raid by national intelligence officers, were the first at a foreign oil firm since Venezuela's government launched a purge last year that has resulted in detentions of more than 80 executives at state oil company PDVSA and partners.

It spooked other foreign companies working in the OPEC member nation, and Chevron had evacuated other executives.

But the government of President Nicolas Maduro, condemned by the West and major Latin American nations over a May 20 re-election critics said was a farce cementing dictatorship, has been trying to project a more benign image in recent days.

It freed dozens of anti-Maduro activists at the weekend, and Foreign Minster Jorge Arreaza reiterated calls on Wednesday for dialogue with the U.S. government, which has imposed sanctions aimed at squeezing the socialist government.

The two Chevron employees had been facing possible treason charges for refusing to sign a parts contract for a joint venture with state-owned oil company PDVSA, sources said.

Chevron, the world's seventh-largest publicly traded oil producer with 2017 revenue of $135 billion, operates in Venezuela mostly through minority stakes in five projects. (Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Andreina Aponte, Marguerita Choy and Cynthia Osterman)

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