CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The daughter of Alirio Zambrano said Thursday she's grateful that Sen. Ted Cruz spoke before the full Senate on Wednesday demanding their release.
Corpus Christi resident Alirio Zambrano is one of six CITGO employees who has been imprisoned by the Venezuelan government for more than two years.
"What I hope comes out of the speech is that it's a very clear message to the people who are holding my family hostage and captive that they haven't fooled us," Gabriela Zambrano Hill said. "House arrest is excellent, but that is not the same as real freedom."
The CITGO 6 were moved from a prison basement to house arrest earlier this month.
"What we've gathered from the men is that they're very much in a state of transition," Zambrano Hill said. "They spent two years with the same six people in very terrible, cramped conditions. So, they're just trying to get used to the big change in their environment. They all seem to be doing pretty well, but needless to say it's been really difficult for them."
In his speech before the Senate, Cruz mentioned the fact that the CITGO 6 have been released from prison but are not yet free men.
"This is progress," Cruz said. "It is undeniable progress. But it is far from enough, and here, too, we must redouble our efforts to ensure their full release to ensure they can come home to America."
Zambrano and five other CITGO employees were summoned to Venezuela in November 2017 for a meeting with CITGO's parent company. There, masked men arrested them. They face corruption charges believed to be false, and Cruz believes the Venezuelan government is holding them as diplomatic bargaining chips.
"I rise today to talk about one of the most complicated areas where our diplomats have to engage -- when brutal regimes and terrorist groups seize Americans and use them as hostages, hoping to extract concessions from our government," Cruz said to begin his speech Wednesday.
He ended the speech with a veiled message to Venezuela.
"Those who are keeping Americans wrongfully imprisoned, who are committing evil, should know that we will not give up," he said. "We will not rest until these Americans are set free."
Zambrano Hill had a similar message.
"We're not going to stop pushing until they all come home to us -- hopefully in time for Christmas."