CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Saturday marked three years since six CITGO executives -- including Alirio Zambrano who lived in Corpus Christi at the time -- were arrested in Venezuela and charged with stealing from the company.
All along, Zambrano's family has said the charges are certainly false.
"It’s extremely easy to prove that my family had nothing to do with these accusations,” his oldest daughter Gabriela Zambrano Hill said. "It’s very obviously a political ploy to imprison my family and to hold them as hostages.”
Hill’s uncle Jose Luis Zambrano is also among the six executives who were suddenly and urgently summoned to Venezuela on November 21, 2017 by CITGO’s parent company.
They were immediately arrested and have spent the past three years either in prison or under house arrest.
Trials began for the six men in August, but Hill is dubious about their legitimacy.
“They really are kind of a joke,” she said. "From what we can tell, there’s no witnesses allowed. There are armed guards outside. And the content of the trial really doesn’t seem to have any bearing to the accusations against my family. So we have zero trust in the Venezuelan judicial system.”
The trials are also not providing any clarity on when — or even if — the CITGO 6 will be released.
Hill is hopeful it will happen before the holidays next year.
“We just desperately hope that this is the last Thanksgiving that I have to spend without my dad,” she said.
And there’s another reason she wants her dad home. Zambrano has never met his only grandchild, and Hill is pregnant right now with grandchild number two.
“It’ll be his second grandchild,” she said. "So my dream is that my dad will get to meet both his grandchildren very soon.”