Top State Department official travels to Venezuela to meet with detained Americans

Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens’ quiet go to to the capital metropolis of Caracas represents a major growth as efforts to free the boys, a lot of whom have been imprisoned for years by the federal government of embattled Venezuelan chief Nicolás Maduro, have but to succeed.

“We can confirm that the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens traveled to Caracas for discussions about the welfare and safety of US nationals in Venezuela,” a State Department official stated Friday.

“We continue to advocate for the immediate and unconditional release of all wrongfully detained US nationals in Venezuela at every opportunity,” the official stated.

According to a supply acquainted, the administration was capable of work with the Maduro authorities to rearrange the visits to examine on a bunch of detained oil executives referred to as the “CITGO 6,” who’ve simply begun their fifth yr in Venezuelan detention, in addition to three different Americans who’ve been detained since 2020. This supply stated the Maduro authorities was accommodating of the go to.
Four years later, imprisoned oil executives remain pawns in a US-Venezuela standoff

No American officers had been capable of meet in individual with the detained males in years, because the US severed diplomatic ties with Maduro below the Trump administration.

Carstens traveled with a small State Department delegation, the supply acquainted stated, and nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken personally advocated for the journey.

According to relations of the CITGO 6, Carstens visited with the boys — Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira — for about an hour and a half at El Helicoide, the place they’re imprisoned.

The State Department briefed the households in regards to the go to on Friday, after Carstens had returned to Washington. The Associated Press was first to report on Carstens’ trip.

His assembly with the CITGO 6 got here as a complete shock, a number of of the relations advised CNN.

Carstens “actually brought pictures of him with our families” to show his id to the detained Americans, stated Alexandra Z. Forseth, the daughter of Alirio Jose Zambrano and niece of Jose Luis Zambrano. She stated it appeared that the guards on the jail gave the boys some privateness to fulfill with Carstens.

“I think it was very uplifting for both parties,” she advised CNN.

One of the boys acknowledged Carstens and was so stunned that he requested to the touch his face to see if it was actually him. Carstens gave every of the boys a hug earlier than he left, the supply acquainted stated.

The CITGO 6 — 5 US residents and one everlasting resident — have been summoned to Venezuela in November 2017 for an emergency work assembly, the place they have been arrested on corruption expenses.

As CNN reported in recent weeks, the boys have turn into pawns within the geopolitical confrontation between the US authorities and the Maduro regime. Carstens’ go to comes follows elevated public scrutiny from the households over the dearth of progress in securing the group’s launch.

The US envoy was additionally capable of meet collectively with Luke Denman and Airan Berry, two US veterans arrested in May 2020 on accusations by Maduro that they have been trying a coup, in addition to with Matthew Heath, one other US veteran who was arrested in September 2020 and accused of being a terrorist.

Denman’s brother Mark described it as a “welfare check” and stated the assembly lasted about 45 minutes. Heath’s household stated Carstens “was able to conduct a brief wellness check.”

CNN’s Isa Soares and Vasco Cotovio contributed to this report.

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