Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
The United States is designating the Venezuelan judge and prosecutor who presided over and prosecuted the November 2020 trial and sentencing of six U.S. persons known as the “Citgo 6.” These Americans have been unjustly imprisoned in Venezuela since November 2017 after being lured to Caracas under false pretenses.
Lorena Carolina Cornielles Ruiz (Cornielles) presided over the trial of the Citgo 6 while Ramon Antonio Torres Espinoza (Torres) was the prosecutor representing the illegitimate Maduro regime. As such, these two officials played critical roles in the kangaroo court trials of each of the Citgo executives. These proceedings were marred by a lack of fair trial guarantees and based on politically motivated charges, and media and human rights groups were denied access to the trials.
These six men and their families have suffered long enough. It is time for Maduro to release the Citgo 6 and let them be reunited with their families.
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These sources hold a wide variety of critical minerals, including cobalt, manganese, titanium, and rare earth elements, as well as gold, copper, and nickel (see fig. 1). Many of these minerals are in international waters. For example, the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which spans 1.7 million square miles between Hawaii and Mexico, holds trillions of polymetallic nodules. Mining for sand, gravel, and aggregates is underway nearer to shore, but these areas hold only limited critical minerals. Figure 1. Cross-section of a polymetallic nodule, approximately 1 to 4 inches in diameter, showing the critical minerals that can be found within the nodule, and their applications. These minerals play an important role in the U.S. economy, contributing to industries such as transportation, defense, aerospace, electronics, energy, construction, and health care. 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Extraction of sulfide deposits around hydrothermal vents or the slopes of undersea ridges could involve drilling and cutting into the crust, breaking up the materials, and transporting the pieces to the surface in a similar system (see fig. 2). Figure 2. Examples of extraction systems for deep-sea mining. What are some concerns? These deep-sea mining methods may have environmental effects. Specifically, extraction processes create sediment clouds at the seabed or in the water above. These clouds, which could contain toxic heavy metals and spread over long distances, would eventually settle back to the seabed. Furthermore, disturbing the seabed may destroy habitat, with unknown effects on sea life. Researchers are studying these and other effects. For example, in August 2020, a collaborative program involving more than 100 U.S. and international researchers was established to study the potential environmental effects of Pacific Ocean polymetallic nodule mining. How mature is it? 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