The following excerpts are taken from an article by THERESA SCHMIDT published by Local Lake Charles' KPLC 7 News on February 21, 2019.
Thanksgiving week 2017: Tomeu Vadell and five other Citgo executives in the U.S. are called to what they think is a brief business meeting in Venezuela. Once there, they are ambushed, imprisoned, and remain there still. Vadell was plant manager of the Lake Charles refinery. His family is devastated.
Wife Dennysse and daughter Cristina live in Lake Charles and fear for his health and safety; especially, after receiving a recent picture,
“He has lost 60 pounds and not in a good way. Malnutrition can take a toll on your body. The body can take only so much,” Dennysse said.
Dennysse went to Venezuela to see him briefly last summer and was stunned.
“I looked around, I saw all these men. I didn’t recognize my husband he was so thin. He looked like a prisoner of war,” she said.
Five of the men, including Vadell, have dual citizenship in the U.S. and Venezuela. They are allowed brief phone calls, sometimes sporadically. The families are told the men are held on corruption or embezzlement type charges—charges their family members say are absolutely bogus.
“There’s no basis for the allegations that are being put on him. He’s a man of honesty and integrity. You can ask anyone,” Cristina said.
“If somebody would have told me this was going to happen, I would have laughed in their faces. My husband is incapable of doing anything wrong,” Dennysse said.
And the men being held have had 13 court dates now, none of which results in a hearing.
“Their human rights have been completely violated. There’s no due process in Venezuela,” Dennysse said.
“We are concerned and we’re looking for support from anyone in government; any individual that help us bring him and the other men home,” Cristina said.
They say Citgo headquarters in Houston does not seem to be trying to help the men or their families and that bothers Cristina.
“They have the resources, I think, to help the families and to be able to help bring these men home,” Cristina said.