The daughter of one of the six Citgo executives imprisoned in Venezuela said her family was "overwhelmed with emotions" upon hearing the group was transferred to house arrest after spending more than two years in an overcrowded, unsanitary basement holding cell.
According to a Dec. 9 report by Reuters, the group, known as the Citgo 6, were granted house arrest by Venezuela. The men have been imprisoned since taking an emergency business trip to Venezuela the weekend before Thanksgiving 2017.
Gabriella Zambrano-Hill is the daughter of Alirio Zambrano, vice president and general manager of the refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. She told the American Press on Tuesday that there was no advance notice that the Citgo 6 were being transferred to house arrest.
"It caught us as much by surprise as the rest of the world," she said. "It's a huge whirlwind. They can see the stars for the first time in two years."
Tomeu Vadell, vice president of refining and former general manager of the Lake Charles refinery, is another member of the Citgo 6. The Vadell family said in a statement that they "remain very concerned about Tomeu's well-being and hope that this is a step towards our loved one coming home very soon."
"We don't have any further information at this time," the statement continued.
Also imprisoned are Zambrano's brother, Jose Luis Zambrano, vice president of shared services; 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.
Zambrano-Hill said her father and the rest of the Citgo 6 are now in "tolerable conditions."
"We still see them as prisoners," she said. "My father is not free in any sense."
The group is monitored very closely under house arrest, wearing ankle monitors and being under the watch of armed guards, Zambrano-Hill said.
Pressure from the public and elected officials on the federal level to release the Citgo 6 helped spark their move to house arrest, Zambrano-Hill said. The Reuters report stated Vice President Mike Pence and "two U.S. senators" asked Venezuela to release the Citgo 6.
"We did see it as a sign that what we are doing is working," she said.
A petition on citgo6coalition.org asking the "U.S. government and its allies" to "secure the immediate release of the Citgo 6" has received 2,713 out of 5,000 signatures. A march also took place Oct. 13 in Houston, attracting more than 250 people.
A Venezuelan court ruled in June that the men should stand trial.