The US delegation is unable to secure the release of the Americans detained in Venezuela
The US President’s special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, was able to meet wrongfully detained Americans in the capital, Caracas, and “speak with senior officials in the Maduro regime about the importance of ensuring they receive adequate care when they need it.” ‘ a State Department spokesman told CNN.
However, the visit of Carstens and Ambassador Jimmy Story, the head of the US unit for Venezuelan affairs, ended Thursday without allowing any of the Americans who the US believes were wrongfully detained to return home.
At least eight Americans are currently known to be unjustly imprisoned in Venezuela – five of the six American oil executives collectively known as the “CITGO 6” – Tomeu Vadell, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira – combined with Luke Denman, Airan Berry and Matthew Heath.
“We will continue to press every opportunity for the immediate and unconditional release of all US citizens wrongfully detained in Venezuela,” the State Department spokesman said.
A senior State Department official told CNN that the talks between the US and Maduro officials “have been constructive, but both sides have more work to do to bridge the gaps between their positions.” “Some progress” has been made in previous talks between the two sides, according to the state official, who said there was also a sense that there was “an open line of communication on the issue” between the US and Nicolas Maduro’s regime. whom the US does not recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
The official declined to provide specific details about the talks or who Carstens and Story met with from the Maduro government, but Carstens was able to visit any Americans the State Department believes are unjustly detained. The visits to the detainees did not appear rushed, the official told CNN.
There was also a feeling that the men appreciated seeing the special envoy, “because without an embassy there and the consular investigations that come when you have an embassy in the country, they just don’t get the opportunity to be a part of their story.” and to let their loved ones know someone saw them and they can report back, ‘Hey, I saw your husband, your brother, your father, and this is what we looked like and that’s what he said,'” he said the official. The US ceased operating its embassy in Venezuela in March 2019.
The senior State Department official said the delegation had planned to make the trip to conduct a “health and welfare visit” to all detained Americans ahead of Heath’s suicide attempt, but concerns for his well-being made the visit this week urgent. and this concern was highlighted in discussions with Venezuelan officials.
Heath’s aunt Trudy Rutherford said in a statement Thursday they “believe Matthew’s physical and mental health remains at risk and are concerned he may attempt suicide again.”
“While we are incredibly grateful to Ambassador Carstens and his team for making this trip, it is important that the U.S. government remains engaged at a high level to bring Matthew and the other American detainees home,” she said .
“President Biden and President Maduro will both benefit from ending the ordeal for all of these Americans and their families, and neither will benefit from their lengthy incarceration,” Rutherford said.
The family of Vadell, one of the “CITGO 6” detained since 2017, said in a statement that they are “more than disappointed to see another plane land in the United States without Tomeu on it”.
“For over four and a half years, this innocent man’s human rights have been violated,” the family said. “It’s unacceptable.”
The Vadell family called on “everyone involved,” including the US government, Venezuelan authorities, CITGO and the United Nations, to work for his immediate release, noting that he is nearly 63 years old and “with heart problems.” and latent tuberculosis”.
“His health and safety are our top priority,” they said. “We need urgent action from everyone involved, because every day counts.”
This story has been updated with additional details.