Fourth Thanksgiving apart looms for Citgo 6 and family members

Happier days when Tomeu Vadell was able to be with his family on Thanksgiving.
Updated: Nov. 24, 2020 at 9:01 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -It’s been three years since the men known as the Citgo 6 were taken and imprisoned in Venezuela.

Members of the Vadell family admit it’s a painful anniversary. The men were taken just before Thanksgiving in 2017, so this year is actually the fourth Thanksgiving families have been apart.

The men were summoned to a business meeting in Venezuela In November 2017 and ambushed. Family members say they were detained by the Venezuelan government on bogus corruption charges.

Tomeu Vadell was the manager at the Citgo refinery near Lake Charles. Citgo is owned by PDVSA, the state owned oil company of Venezuela.

Vadell’s wife Dennysse, two daughters and a son never imagined the ordeal would go on this long.

“He always says he’s well because he doesn’t want to worry us, but we’re just afraid of the pandemic. Where he’s at he’s at very high risk of contracting the virus, so we are very afraid anything could happen to him. I can’t believe this will be our fourth round of holidays without him and it’s just so painful,” said Dennysse.

Veronica Vadell Weggemen gave birth to her first child, Sebastian Tomeu,whose middle name is after his grandfather. The four-month-old grandson is just one reason they want him home so much.

“My son won’t be able to have his first Thanksgiving with the whole, complete family. There’s going to be an empty chair at the table and it’s unacceptable. He needs to come back home to Louisiana and be home with his family and retire,” said Weggeman.

Tomeu Vadell’s son, Diego says it’s been so difficult emotionally.

“You can’t regain lost time, so I think that’s the biggest thing. We’ve always been a close family and we’ve always talked and met up and to be separated like this, it’s a nightmare,” he said.

The men have been on trial in Caracas since summer.

Daughter Cristina Vadell believes the White House does have the diplomatic tools available to get the men home.

“There’s a presidential directive, Number 30, that states that a president can do pretty much anything in his power to bring home hostages or Americans that are detained unjustly. So, from my perspective, this is still something the current administration, the Trump administration, could resolve,” she said.

But for now, it’s yet another Thanksgiving apart and appeal to Venezuelan officials.

Veronica asks them, “To please open their hearts and for the right thing to be done and for dad to be home for the holidays. That is our holiday wish and we pray for that to happen,” said Weggeman.

The U.S. State Department marked the three- year anniversary of the ambush by reiterating the President’s commitment to securing the unconditional release of the men saying “These six Americans and their families have suffered long enough.”

This Thanksgiving the Vadells also express appreciation to all those who have worked to secure the release of the Citgo 6, including veteran diplomat, Bill Richardson.

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