HOUSTON - It’s been more than two years since a group of Citgo executives, now known as the “Citgo 6”, was detained in Venezuela during a business trip. The men, who are, husbands and fathers, have had multiple court dates pushed back for alleged corruption charges, that the families say are false, and feel the men are being used for political gain.
Of the six men, five are from Texas and close to the Houston area. There was a bit of hope in their case when in December the men were allowed to be on house arrest while they await trial. However, last week, without warning, their families found they were all returned to another jail in Venezuela, and haven’t been heard from since.
Maria Elena Cardenas is the wife of Gustavo Cardenas, one of the men who was arrested on November 2017.
She tells Fox 26 “They say a lie, they told my husband we are going to do some test, and you will be back in a couple of hours. Once he gets there I suppose he realized that it wasn’t true.“ That was on February 5th, and the last time Maria Elena has spoken to her husband.
It’s more frustrating for the six families involved, from a Venezuelan government that has been very misleading. “We feel bad because my husband is innocent. They are not doing anything wrong. Where in house arrest unjustly detained still.” says Cardenas.
Together, the couple has three children. The youngest is the most affected by this situation, as he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and fears he won’t see his father before he dies. Maria Elena tells us “He starts again with the panic attacks, and you know, having nightmares and everything. It’s not easy. It’s not easy, and of course, we can’t even sleep at all since this happened again.”
Maria Elena says that Citgo has stepped in the help with legal fees and that government officials are very supportive.
Senator John Cornyn issued this statement:
“The re-arrest of these innocent Americans shows the ruthlessness and desperation of the failed Maduro regime...I am heartbroken for their families, and I pledge to continue working with the Trump Administration, using every tool in our box, to free these innocent Americans from the crosshairs of the Maduro Regime’s instability.”
Citgo has also issued a statement:
"CITGO continues to support the U.S. Government’s efforts to secure the release of our colleagues, who have now been detained for more than two years without trial. CITGO believes that the detention of these men violates their fundamental human rights, including the right to due process under the law. We pray for their safety, and for their families as they contend with all of the challenges presented by this lengthy separation from their loved ones. We continue to support the detainees’ families, and we are grateful for the efforts of this Administration and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to bring these men home.”
Maria Elena and the other families are hoping to gain more awareness of the Citgo 6, saying “We are just trying to get the attention of President Trump to please help us. It’s time to get these men back.“
The next trial date in Venezuela set for the men is February 19th. On Tuesday, Fort Bend County Judge and the family members will meet to speak about details for a proposed solution.