Free the Citgo 6

Published 6:00 pm Friday, October 25, 2019

Thanksgiving is typically seen as a time where families come together and give thanks for their many blessings.

Unfortunately, families of the prisoners known as the Citgo 6 are anticipating another Thanksgiving spent without their loved ones.

Six Citgo employees were arrested the weekend before Thanksgiving 2017 during an emergency trip to Venezuela. Since then, they have been in a basement holding cell under poor conditions.

The family of Alirio Zambrano has nearly wiped out its savings making sure he has enough food, water and medication to stay healthy. It’s one of the many sacrifices they and other families have made since the Citgo 6 were imprisoned.

Zambrano was the vice president and general manager of the refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Also making up the Citgo 6 are Zambrano’s brother, Jose Luis Zambrano, vice president of shared services; Tomeu Vadell, vice president of refining and former general manager of the Lake Charles refinery; Gustavo Cardenas, vice president of shareholder relations, government and public affairs; Jorge Toledo; vice president of supply and marketing; and Citgo’s President Jose Angel Pereira.

Contact between the prisoners and their families has been extremely limited, with some phone calls lasting less than a minute. Some calls don’t connect at all.

It’s impossible to understand the emotional struggle these families continue to face as each day passes. What can’t be questioned is their strength and determination to bring their loved ones home.

Zambrano’s daughter, Alexandra, helped organize a march in Houston on Oct. 13 that drew more than 250 people. The six prisoners received communication about the march and took part after mapping out their holding cell.

Alexandra also created a website, citgo6coalition.org, in an effort to bring the prisoners home.

The website is seeking 5,000 signatures from people urging the U.S. government and its allies to work toward the immediate release of the Citgo 6. It has received 1,347 signatures so far.

Signing the petition takes less than a minute to complete. It’s a simple act residents throughout Southwest Louisiana should do to show their support for these families who have been through more than enough.

This Thanksgiving, be sure to remember the Citgo 6 and their family members. It’s up to the public and the lawmakers on every level to make sure they aren’t forgotten and come home soon.Citgo 6