FORT BEND COUNTY - Government officials are rallying around the families of several Fort Bend County men who are in jail in Venezuela. The men are Citgo Oil executives and have been held for more than two years now. Things were looking up for the Citgo 6, as they’re called. After more than two years in a Venezuela jail they were allowed to go on house arrest in Venezuela in December 2019 but just last week the six men were suddenly and without explanation taken back to jail.
Four of the families live in Fort Bend County. So this afternoon the County Judge and County Commissioners voted unanimously passing a resolution saying Fort Bend County stands with these grieving families asking for the men to be released and allowed to come home.
This started in November 2017. The six Citgo executives Alirio Zambrano, Gustavo Cardenas, Jose Periera, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano and Tomeu Vadell went to Venezuela for an emergency business meeting just before Thanksgiving and family members are told masked, armed men, arrested the men claiming they were being charged with corruption. More than two years later the men still haven’t had a trial and after being held behind bars, then put on house arrest in Venezuela, now loved ones don’t know exactly where the Citgo 6 are being held but they believe the men are now in a jail called the Helicoide.
”The El Helicoide is infamous for their torture, for their human rights violations. So naturally, we’re very concerned for their well being. We consider this another abomination for their justice,” says Gabriela Zambrano whose Dad & Uncle are being held.
”I’m sad. I’m very, very sad. For me the situation is very painful,” says Mervis Periera whose husband is being held.
“Five months ago I gave birth to my daughter Iris. She just had her baptism on Saturday. We have had so many meaningful experiences without my dad and without my uncle home. My family is broken,” adds Zambrano Hill.
“Every day I wake up and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know If I’m going to get a phone call that my dad has died in a prison. I don’t know if I’ll ever see my dad again,” says daughter Isabella Toledo.
“Every single man has lost at least 50 pounds due to malnutrition, constant chronic health complaints, not to mention just the sheer psychological torture,” says Zambrano Hill.
Senator Ted Cruz is also calling for the men to be released.
He says “When brutal regimes and terrorist groups seize Americans and use them as hostages hoping to extract concessions from our government. These are situations that are infuriating and heartbreaking”.
The families say these are hard-working men, not criminals.
I spoke with the State Department this and I’m told the US government is doing everything possible to get the six Citgo executives home.