The first thing former CITGO executive Gustavo Cárdenas did upon arriving in the United States was to hug his daughter, whom he had not seen since he was detained during a business trip to Caracas in 2017.
“She started crying and hugging her and telling her that finally, that she had dreamed so much about that moment but she didn’t imagine it would be like this, so soon,” she told the interviewer by phone. voice of america his wife, Maria Elena Cardona, from their home in Houston, Texas.
The ex-executive’s release along with an American tourist also detained in Caracas, occurred after the visit of a delegation of American officials to Venezuela.
The US government assured that Venezuela released the prisoners as a “gesture” in response to the “diplomatic rapprochement”. Caracas has not ruled on the matter.
When María Elena learned of her husband’s release from media reports, she did not believe it was serious. Jorge, along with five other former executives of the Houston-based CITGO refinery, had been transferred to house arrest several times during almost five years of detention.
However, at 10:30 pm on Sunday, she received a call from the US authorities confirming that it was true, that her husband was already free and was on his way home.
“My children and I jumped for joy, we began to laugh, to give thanks to God, full of happiness because our prayers were heard,” says María Elena.
The Venezuelan said that she felt happy to see her husband but that she also feels nostalgic “for everything that happened, everything we lost and how our lives were damaged.”
She assures that her husband first wants to take care of her “physical and psychological” health and also recover all the “important moments he lost with his children.”
His daughter María Mercedes graduated from university in 2019, and he wants to take a photo with her dressed again in the ceremony gown, says María Elena.
“I got out of jail and got my freedom after approximately 1,570 days of unjust captivity,” said the American, and called for the release of the other five former executives still detained in Caracas: Tomeu Vadell, Jorge Toledo, Jose Pereira, Jose Luis and Alirio Zambrano.
The former executives, known as the CITGO Six, received sentences of between eight and 13 years in prison for crimes related to embezzlement.
The US government has actively called for their release since their arrest.
Some analysts believe that the Maduro government sees them as “exchange currency” for their political interests with the US.