CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Monday marked 1,000 days of detainment for six CITGO executives, including a Corpus Christi man, who have come to be known as the CITGO 6.
Venezuelan police arrested the men under what their families refer to as suspicious circumstances just before Thanksgiving in 2017.
The milestone comes with a major development directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alexandra Forseth — whose father is Alirio Zambrano, the CITGO 6 member from Corpus Christi — said the men's trial now is underway as the Venezuelan government expedites court proceedings to try and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in its jails.
“(My family is) very happy to see the government finally going in this direction," Forseth said. "But we don’t really know what’s to come out of the court-case proceedings.”
Zambrano and the other five executives, including his brother from Katy, were called to Venezuela for what they were told would be a meeting with CITGO's parent company based in that South American country.
Soon after arriving, police arrested the men on allegations that they were stealing from the company.
Forseth, her family, and the families of the other five executives believe the charges are false, and she said nothing has come out of the trial to prove otherwise.
“As far as we know from what our lawyers have told us, there’s been no evidence produced against them showing any wrongdoing," she said.
If the judge convicts the CITGO 6, it's unclear what range of punishment they would face, and an acquittal is no guarantee of freedom.
Forseth vows to continue fighting for the men's full release with the help of the U.S. State Department and other entities.
“We still want them home," she said. "So that fight is not going to stop no matter what’s going on judicially down there."
CITGO responded to KRIS 6 News' request for comment with a statement Wednesday evening:
"Today marks 1,000 days that our colleagues have been detained in Venezuela. Now that their trial has begun, we hope for a swift conclusion so that these men can return to their families; they have been away too long. We will continue praying for their safety, especially during this pandemic, and for their families, as they contend with the trial and all of the challenges presented by this lengthy separation from their loved ones."