New Orleans woman hopes presidential visit brings American hostages in Venezuela home

The men held hostage are known as the Citgo 6--former executives of the oil and gas company.
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 7:15 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A New Orleans woman is pleading for help in bringing her father home. He is currently one of six men being held hostage in Venezuela and she’s hoping to get President Joe Biden’s attention while he’s in Louisiana, as well as other state leaders.

For the last three and a half years, Veronica Weggeman’s father Tomeu Vadell, along with five other men, have been held in Venezuela. The men all working for Citgo in various administrative roles were summoned to a business meeting in Venezuela back in November 2017 where they were ambushed. At the time, Vadell was working as a plant manager for the Citgo refinery in Lake Charles.

“He was taken the week of Thanksgiving and we didn’t know where he was for about 35 days,” said Weggeman. “They were in a basement cell two floors underground with no central A/C, no running water, no windows, no nothing.”

She said her father survived the first year and a half on 600 calories per day, causing him to lose more than 70 pounds--making him almost unrecognizable.

Family members say the men were arrested by the Venezuelan government on bogus corruption charges.

“They’re pawns,” said Weggeman. “They’re Venezuelan-American. They’re used as hostages. Let’s negotiate.”

Now, Vadell is on house arrest in Venezuela. Weggeman said this is a step in the right direction but feels like it could change on a moment’s notice. She is hoping to get the attention of lawmakers and the President to bring her father home sooner rather than later, especially with the President visiting both Lake Charles and New Orleans during his visit to the state.

“Former President Trump brought about 50 hostages home, which was amazing for a U.S. president to do, and we’re hoping Biden will follow in those footsteps of bringing Americans home,” she said. “So I do believe we’ve made some headway, especially with this new resolution. It had just been 100 days that President Biden had been in office and already dad was granted house arrest. I know that there were a lot of players that it took for this decision to happen, so we’re really grateful.”

And although that is good news, for now, she said it’s not enough.

“We just want him home. This is a real big injustice that’s going on.”

Weggeman said within the first week of Secretary of State Antony Blinkin taking office, he called the family to let them know he was committed to this case, and that the Biden administration saw it as a priority.

However, the family is asking for help in putting pressure on elected officials to help bring the American hostages in Venezuela home.

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