Citgo execs called to last-minute meeting in Venezuela before imprisonment, wife says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In November 2017, six Citgo executives were called to a last-minute meeting in Venezuela.

Most of them lived in the Houston area, but a couple are based in Louisiana.

Since then, none of those employees have returned to the United States, and much to their families' horror, have been detained in a military prison.

"He's just going to work and going home and that's it," said Maria Cardenas, the wife of a detained Citgo executive. "Never imagined something so bad can happen to him and to us."

Fourteen months ago, Maria's husband Gustavo and five other Citgo executives were suddenly summoned to Venezuela. They thought it was a little bizarre, but went anyway.

"They called him the night before," Maria said. "'You need to come to Venezuela for a meeting - an emergency meeting.'"

For nearly 40 days, Maria had no idea why Gustavo wasn't back. It turns out, Gustavo and his colleagues were detained on alleged fraud and embezzlement charges.

They were put in a military-style prison with limited food and water, causing her husband to lose 47 pounds.

"I cry for days and sleep because you can't imagine what is going on," Maria said. "What's happened?"

What's happening in Venezuela as a whole is impossible to ignore. Riots, protests and unrest against what many call a corrupt, dictatorship government have been plastered around the world.

The Cardenas' son, Sergio, has special needs and requires care around the clock. They've even set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for a wheelchair accessible van.

Maria says she speaks to Gustavo a couple of times a week for roughly two minutes at a time, but still has no answers.

She says the hearings for the men keep being canceled or pushed back.

"My husband is an innocent man," Maria said. "It was a trap. It's time for him to come home."

ABC13 reached out to Citgo for comment, but has not heard back.

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