Lake Charles executive and fellow Citgo 6 remain imprisoned through pandemic

Citgo Petroleum headquarters in Houston (Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa via The Associated Press)

A Lake Charles man and five other oil executives known as the Citgo 6 remain captives in Venezuela two and half years since they were detained on corruption charges.

Tomeu Vadell of Louisiana and five other Citgo executives—Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira—were arrested and detained in November 2017 by President Nicholas Maduro, whose presidency is now in dispute. Maduro said at the time the six would “be judged for being corrupt, thieving traitors.” Citgo is the U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA.

A statement issued late last week by CITGO says the company continues to support the U.S. government’s efforts to secure the release of the men, who continue to be detained without trial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[They] face grave risks to their health,” a spokeswoman said in a statement to KPLC-7. “CITGO believes that the detention of these men violates their fundamental human rights, including the right to due process under 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.”

The Trump administration last summer stepped up its public advocacy of the case. The State Department has issued statements demanding their release, and Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien in July called for the immediate release of the Citgo 6 in a tweet related to the DGCIM sanctions.

In April 2019, Vice President Mike Pence met with family members of the detained men, saying he wanted to “assure you that we’re with you, and we’re going to stand with you until your loved ones are free and until Venezuela is free.”

In a story last week, KPLC reported that Vadell may miss the birth of his first grandchild in July.

KPLC has the full story.