Remaining ‘CITGO 6′ prisoners released from Venezuela in prison exchange

Published: Oct. 1, 2022 at 5:30 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - A prisoner exchange with Venezuela brings the the remining men of the ‘CITGO 6′ back to the United States.

Seven Americans, including the five remaining members of the CITGO 6 were released by the Maduro Regime as part of a prisoner swap. Those men included CITGO executives Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo, Jose Pereira, and former U.S. Marine Corporal Matthew Heath.

Venezuela wanted the return of President Nicolas Maduro’s wife’s two nephews who were in jail on drug charges.

Since 2017, 7News has been covering the CITGO 6. Family members said they were ambushed when summoned to the country under the guise of a business meeting.

For years, 7News has been helping family members, some who live here in Lake Charles, speak out after the CITGO 6 were detained.

“I’ve graduated, I’ve started a new job and I feel like I’ve done a lot of things I would have liked for him to have been there just to hear his opinion or have some form of guidance from him. So, it’s been hard not experiencing that,” Diego Vadell, son of Tomeau said in 2019.

Veronica Vadell Weggeman spoke to 7News back in 2020, nearly three years after her father was detained. COVID-19 was spreading rapidly and families were concerned for their safety.

”It would mean the world to us for him to be here for Father’s Day and if not, at least here for July in order to meet his first grandbaby,” she said.

Senator Bill Cassidy released a statement, focusing on Lake Charles native Tomeu Vadell’s return.

“After five years of work to free Tomeu Vadell and the rest of the CITGO 6, it is a blessing to say they are returning home,” Cassidy said. “Thank you to the administration and the many U.S. officials who worked with us to secure their release. This is a great day.”

CITGO also released a statement:

“In 2017, the Maduro regime detained six CITGO executives and convicted them of charges without due process. We welcome the news of the release of the remaining five and are grateful to the leaders in Washington who helped bring about their release.”

7News reached out to the family members of the men. While they are excited about the news, they don’t wish to comment at this time.