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The U.S. official met with "6 from SIDCO" in Venezuela

The U.S. official met with “6 from SIDCO” in Venezuela

(CNN) – A senior foreign ministry official traveled to Venezuela this week to meet with detained Americans.

Roger Gorstens’ special visit to the capital, Caracas, marked a significant progress in efforts to free the men, many of whom have been imprisoned for years by the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Not yet successful.

“We can confirm that Roger Carstens, the special envoy for presidential hostages, went to Caracas to discuss the welfare and security of U.S. citizens in Venezuela,” a State Department official said Friday.

“We continue to advocate on every occasion for the immediate and unconditional release of all U.S. citizens who have been unjustly detained in Venezuela,” the official said.

According to a family source, the administration was able to work with the Maduro government to arrange visits to control a group of detained oil executives. “SIDCO 6”This is the fifth year of Venezuela’s detention since 2020, and three Americans have just begun.

The source said the Maduro government was accommodating the visit.

As the United States severed diplomatic ties with Maduro under the Trump administration, no U.S. official has been able to meet detainees in person for years.

Carsten traveled with a small delegation from the State Department, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blingen personally advocated for the trip.

According to the relatives of six people from Sitko, Carstenz met the men Tomio Vadel, Gustavo Gordனாnas, Jorge Toledo, Allerio Jose Zamprano, Jose Luis Samprano and Jose Angel Pereira in the El Helicoid prison for about an hour and a half. .

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After Carstens’ return to Washington, the State Department announced a visit to the families on Friday. The Associated Press first reported on Carstens’ trip.

His meeting with SIDCO6 was a complete shock, several family members told CNN.

Alexandra Z Forset, daughter-in-law of Allerio Jose Zambrano and daughter-in-law of Jose Luis Zambrano, said that Carstens “actually brought his photographs with our families” to prove his identity to the arrested Americans. He said prison guards seemed to have given him some privileges to meet Carstens.

“I think it’s very encouraging for both sides,” he told CNN.

One of them recognized Carstens and was shocked, asking him to touch his face to see if he was really him. The source said Carsten hugged each of the men before leaving.

SIDCO 6, five U.S. citizens and one permanent resident were summoned to Venezuela for an emergency work meeting in November 2017, where they were arrested on corruption charges.

What CNN reported In recent weeks, men have become soldiers in the geopolitical conflict between the US government and the Maduro regime. Carsten’s visit comes after a public review of the families about the lack of progress in securing the group’s release.

The U.S. ambassador was able to meet with two U.S. soldiers, Luke Denman and Aaron Perry, who were arrested on Maduro’s charges in May 2020, and another U.S. soldier, Matthew Heath, who was arrested in September 2020. And accused of being extremist.

Denman’s brother, Mark, described it as a “health check-up” and said the meeting lasted about 45 minutes. Heath’s family said they were “able to perform a brief health check” by Carstens.

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CNN’s Isa Soares and Vasco Cotovio contributed to this report.