Man detained in Venezuelan prison since 2017 business trip

KATY, Texas (FOX 26) — Taking a business trip overseas and not returning home. That is the reality for six families who haven’t seen their loved ones in more than a year.

The men involved were all high-ranking executives from Citgo who went to Venezuela for an emergency meeting.

FOX 26 News spoke with one of the families dealing with this situation.

It was November 2017 when the six men from Texas and Louisiana boarded a flight in Houston bound for Caracas, Venezuela. The trip that was supposed to last two days.

Gustavo Cardenas called his wife to let her know he was boarding a flight the next day and would be home in time for Thanksgiving, but Gustavo never came home.

"I pray every day, every night," said Maria Elena, Gustavo's wife. "We barely sleep because I don’t know what my husband is going through in jail. He is in a basement, in a military prison."

It has been fourteen months since Gustavo and his colleagues from Citgo were thrown in prison then charged with corruption and embezzlement by the Venezuelan government.

Gustavo's wife said the circumstances of the emergency meeting were strange. It was about finances, something that she said her husband of 25 years had nothing to do with. Nonetheless, he was detained, leaving his wife with no income.

"Having three kids, two in college and one with special needs, is a lot of expenses to cover, and they didn’t matter," said Maria Elena. "They just took his salary."

Maria Elena also has to pay to send food, water, and medicine to her husband. The legal fees are also weighing her down. She is the primary caretaker of the couple's youngest child, 18-year-old Sergio, who suffers from a rare terminal illness.

"He has panic attacks frequently, waking up in the middle of the night, crying for his dad, and because the panic attacks are very frequent, he started having seizures and it’s not good to see your son like that,” described Maria Elena.

Sergio became very emotional when talking to FOX 26 about his father and he shared a video that he recorded hoping it would get attention.

"Please, President Trump, bring my dad back home," said Sergio in the video. "He’s an innocent man. He was arrested in Venezuela, but he didn’t do anything wrong. Please can you bring him back?”

Gustavo's court date keeps getting postponed in Venezuela. His family, who relies heavily on their faith through this time, are just hoping for him to return in one piece.

The U.S. Department of State released the following statement:

Our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas. Due to privacy considerations, we are unable to comment on the status of private U.S. citizens, but we continue to work closely with international partners to ensure the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Venezuela.

FOX 26 has already put in a few requests for comment from Citgo, but so far, the company has not provided a response.