The families of Americans who are wrongfully detained are very much done being quiet

by | Jul 29, 2022 | Top Stories

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Alexandra Forseth (left) and Gabriela Zambrano Hill stand in front of a mural of their father, Alirio Jose Zambrano, at an event hosted by the Bring Our Families Home Campaign in Washington, D.C., on July 20. The State Department says both their father and an uncle, Jose Luis Zambrano, are wrongfully detained in Venezuela.

Shuran Huang for NPR

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Shuran Huang for NPR

There’s a smile that comes to Alexandra Forseth’s face when you ask her about her dad, Alirio Jose Zambrano. It will soon be five years since they last saw one another, but when she talks about him, it’s the little things she brings up — like the furniture from Ikea. “Anyone [who] knows my dad, it’s like you can’t find anyone more annoying about following the rules,” she says. “He’s an engineer to the T, and it’s just like, oh my gosh. He’s the guy that you get the Ikea set and it’s like, you better not freaking start until all the pieces are counted.” It’s part of the reason why practically nothing about his situation makes sense to her. Not his arrest in Venezuela in 2017. Not the “express” investigation that lasted 24 hours. And certainly not his conviction at trial. The Venezuelan authorities say Zambrano, along with five other employees of the Houston-based energy giant Citgo, are guilty of corruption. Forseth, her family and the U.S. government say Zambrano, and the rest of the so-called “Citgo 6,” were wrongfully detained.

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Families and friends of Americans who are wrongfully detained listen to remarks at a Bring Our Families Home Campaign event in Washington, D.C., on July 20.

Shuran Huang for NPR

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Shuran Huang for NPR

“He’s just a really stalwart person that has values, and there’s not a person he didn’t meet that he wasn’t really inspiring,” says Forseth. “It’s just weird. It’s weird to be in this situation. It’s so counter to his ethos.”

When her father was first arrested, Forseth followed what for decades was a familiar playbook for the families of U.S. citizens who have been taken hostage or wrongfully detained by state or n …

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