HOUSTON - Venezuela has released six American oil executives from prison and placed them under house arrest in a goodwill gesture to President Biden. The news came down last Thursday.
The men, referred to as the Citgo 6, were lured to Venezuela for an emergency business meeting four years ago and have been in custody ever since, accused of corruption.
In November 2020, the Citgo 6 were convicted and each sentenced to more than eight years in prison for corruption.
They’ve now filed an appeal and are waiting to go back home.
Year after year since November of 2017, it’s the same feeling of emptiness for Malena Cardenas and her three children, who live in Katy.
Her husband, Gustavo Cardenas, was one of the six executives who worked for Houston-based refining company, Citgo.
Citgo's owned by Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA.
"Every day something can happen and he will go back to jail. And house arrest means he’s still being a prisoner," said Cardenas.
"We are not happy. We are broken. We are really broken. We are trying to keep going but we are broken," Cardenas continued.
The Citgo 6 has been back and forth from jail to house arrest over the last 3.5 years since they were taken into Venezuelan custody.
As they wait for an appeal, Cardenas maintains her husband’s innocence.
"He’s innocent of every charge they accuse him," Cardenas said.
Cardenas said she’s only seen her husband once over the last several years. Her three kids are all in their early 20's now. Her youngest suffers from a terminal illness and wonders when he’ll ever see his father again.
"It’s hard because once he wakes up, he just asks for his dad. You feel like somebody’s missing; something’s missing. It’s like a puzzle where something is missing, a piece is missing and nothing is complete. We can sit and have a dinner but we are not complete. It’s never the same," Cardenas said.
Cardenas said the family’s had help from both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as other groups to call for the Citgo 6’s release. However so far, their attempts have not been successful.
The families waited nearly three years to go to trial. Right now, the time frame for the appeals process is unclear.