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6 Investigates: Local Citgo executive remains jailed in cramped Venezuelan basement

Posted at 5:22 PM, May 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-10 14:26:48-04


Cramped, unsanitary conditions are now the norm for the6 Citgo executives in their 19th month of captivity at the hands of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro.

Maduro claims the men stole from Citgo, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. He had them arrested during what the men believed was a routine trip to the capital city of Caracas, around Thanksgiving 2017. That KRIS 6 News exclusive is available, here.

And yet, the government has not yet presented its case, as 15 preliminary hearings have been canceled and the men remain cut off from their families.

One of the men, Alirio Zambrano, is a Citgo-Corpus Christi employee. His daughter, Alexandra Forseth, tells KRIS-6 News that her father and the other men now share overcrowded spaces with political protesters, themselves jailed amid rising political unrest.

“In a place where there might be enough room for about 20 or 30 people, there is like, 70 or 80,” she says. “So there are people sleeping in the hallway in the basement, a lot of the people in there right now, are folks associated with some of the protests in the past couple of weeks.”

And as tensions grow, fears for the men’s safety do too. The men’s weekly phone calls home have been suspended since February, leaving family members to depend on Venezuelan attorneys for updates from inside the jail.

Forseth says Citgo has remained silent on the issue, but, the State Department continues working to effect the men’s release.

“Things have kinda shifted in Venezuela as far as other international players are getting involved to bring peace, there, so we don’t know any details but I know they’re still working hard on that,” she said.

Forseth says the men are able to receive small packages of food, but, only through a complex network of couriers. Travel is also restricted from the U.S. into the country, making communication even more difficult.

“At this point, it’s really hard for anyone to go to Venezuela and see them because all the flights from the U.S.  have gotten canceled.”

Forseth says a particularly bittersweet moment comes Friday, when the youngest of Zambrano’s three daughters graduates from Ray High School. She’ll attend Rice University this fall.

“Our dad had this dream of seeing us all go to (university.) So him not being there tomorrow to see (my sister) graduate and go on to college…it’s really tough,” Forseth said.