An Oak Forest resident and other relatives of the six former Citgo executives who have been detained by the Venezuelan government since November 2017 are worried about the wellbeing of their loved ones.
According to family members of the men, most of whom have ties to the Houston area, they were abruptly rounded up and moved from house arrest Wednesday night by the regime of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Earlier Wednesday, opposition leader Juan Guaido was in Washington D.C. to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, who recognizes Guaido as the South American country’s legitimate leader.
The six detained executives are Gustavo Cardenas, Jose Pereira, Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell and brothers Alirio Zambrano and Jose Luis Zambrano. Oak Forest resident Alexandra Forseth, who started the Citgo 6 Coalition and held an October march at Candlelight Park on their behalf, is the daughter of Alirio Zambrano and niece of Jose Luis.
Toledo’s stepson, Richmond resident Carlos Anez, said in an email Thursday that the men were taken to the SEBIN, which is the headquarters of Venezuela’s national intelligence service, and have been cut off from communication with family members and their attorneys.
“We are afraid for his life,” Cardenas’ wife, Maria Elena Cardenas, said Thursday on Twitter.
Houston-based Citgo is a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), a state-run oil and gas company. Family members of the six executives say they were called to Venezuela for a meeting shortly before Thanksgiving in 2017 and then arrested.
Their relatives say the men, five of whom are dual citizens, have been accused of trying to make decisions that would financially inhibit Citgo’s parent company and by extension the Venezuelan government. They have yet to stand trial.
After spending more than two years in jail, the men were granted house arrest in December.
Anez said Toledo was taken from his Venezuelan home during dinnertime Wednesday under the premise that we would be undergoing a medical evaluation and then returning home. On Thursday, Anez said the families were told they could have food, water, medicine and personal hygiene items delivered once a day to the men.
“They may be stuck at the SEBIN for a while,” Anez said. “Their house arrest order was never revoked by the courts and there is no record of an order for this transfer. It all seems arbitrary.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, who represents some of the men, has been lobbying for their release and return to their families in the U.S. Olson has been making daily posts on Twitter that illustrate how long the men have been detained — more than 800 days.
“I am in communication with the (U.S.) State Department regarding recent developments with the Citgo 6 in Venezuela,” Olson said Thursday in a statement. “Their health and safety is a top priority. I will continue to do all I can to help reunite these men with their families in the United States.”