American Citgo Employee from Lake Charles freed from Venezuela says his ‘nightmare’ has ended…

Citgo executive Tomeu Vadell at his home in Lake Charles in July 2015, left, and three and a half years later while in confinement in a Venezuelan jail in January 2019. Vadell’s family says he’s lost more than 60 pounds due to malnutrition since he and five other Citgo employees were arrested, for alleged embezzlement and treason, during a meeting at Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2017.

An American oil executive freed from custody in Venezuela said that even as he celebrates with his family the end of a long “nightmare,” he’s praying for the release of five colleagues who are still imprisoned and “deserve the same blessings.”

Gustavo Cardenas arrived to his home in Houston at 4 a.m. Wednesday after flying overnight from Caracas with a senior State Department official sent to negotiate the release of American prisoners in the South American country.

In a statement to The Associated Press, he said his imprisonment of more than four years “has caused a lot of suffering and pain, much more than I can explain with my words.”

“I got out of jail and got my freedom after about 1,570 days of wrongful captivity. It was a very hard time marked by deep pain, but also by faith, hope, love and survival,” he said.

He called for the prompt release of the remaining members of the Citgo 6 — for the Houston oil company where they all worked. “They and their families deserve the same blessings and freedom that I got last night,” he said.

The other five, include Tomeu Vadell, former general manager of the Citgo refinery in Lake Charles, and Jose Pereira, Jorge Toledo, brothers Jose Luis Zambrano and Alirio Zambrano.

The release of Cardenas and Jorge Fernández, an American imprisoned in Venezuela who was not a member of the Citgo 6, came hours after Maduro signaled an interest in improving relations with the U.S. at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked concerns in the United States over rising gas prices. In a televised address, he indicated he would accede to U.S. demands that he resume negotiations with his opponents as a first building block for any relief from U.S. sanctions that have been punishing the OPEC nation for years.

U.S. officials have not detailed any other specific outcomes of the talks, but said the release reflected months of relationship-building, particularly involving Roger Carstens, the administration’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs who accompanied Cardenas and Fernandez back to the U.S.

Carstens made a trip to Venezuela in December that did not immediately result in the release of detainees but that senior administration officials credited with establishing trust and laying the groundwork for Tuesday’s outcome. He returned to Venezuela last weekend with other administration officials including Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council director for the Western Hemisphere, and Ambassador James Story, who heads the U.S. government’s Venezuelan Affairs Unit out of neighboring Colombia.

Written By: Citgo Public Relations, Compiled By Lake Charles American Press Staff

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