President Joe Biden on Saturday announced the return of seven Americans he said were wrongfully detained in Venezuela for “years.”
“Today, after years of being wrongfully detained in Venezuela, we are bringing home Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Matthew Heath, and Osman Khan. These individuals will soon be reunited with their families and back in the arms of their loved ones where they belong,” the President said in a statement.
Vadell, Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, and Pereira are five of the six American oil executives known as the “CITGO 6” arrested in Venezuela more than four years ago. Two Americans who had been detained there, including one of the CITGO 6, were released in March following the visit of two top US government officials to Caracas. Heath, a Marine veteran, was detained in September 2020. Khan has been detained since January 2022.
Biden said the seven Americans would be reunited with their families “soon” as he thanked the members of his administration working toward their release.
“To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” he said.
Their release comes months after a US government delegation quietly traveled to Venezuela in June “for discussions about the welfare and safety of US nationals in Venezuela,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN at the time.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the release of the seven detainees and congratulated State Department personnel for “their tireless efforts to achieve this outcome.”
“Although we celebrate the release of these U.S. nationals from Venezuela, we still have more work to do. The safety and security of Americans worldwide is my highest priority as Secretary of State, and we will continue to press for the release of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained abroad,” he said in a statement.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.