Jorge Alberto Fernandez, a Cuban-US dual citizen detained in Venezuela since February 2021, was also released from prison on Tuesday, his lawyer Maria Alejandra Poleo told CNN.
Fernandez, who is not one of the CITGO 6, had been detained in the western city of San Cristobal shortly after entering Venezuela from neighboring Colombia. He was accused of terrorism for carrying a small domestic drone, Poleo told CNN. Flying a drone without a license is illegal in Venezuela.
President Joe Biden praised the release of the two men in a statement Tuesday night, saying they were “wrongfully detained” and will now “be able to hug their families once more.”
The President said that unjustly holding Americans captive was always unacceptable.
“And even as we celebrate the return of Cardenas and Fernandez, we also remember the names and the stories of every American who is being unjustly held against their will — in Venezuela, in Russia, in Afghanistan, Syria, China, Iran, and elsewhere around the world. My Administration will keep fighting to bring them all home,” Biden said.
The group consists of Cárdenas, José Ángel Pereira, Jorge Toledo, José Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio José Zambrano. The former executives of CITGO Petroleum Corp. were arrested in 2017 in Caracas on embezzlement charges, which they deny.
US National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez and US Ambassador James Story met with Maduro and his wife in Caracas to discuss the health of US citizens detained in Venezuela and the state of US sanctions on the Venezuelan oil market, both the US government and the Venezuelan government said on Monday.
The current whereabouts of Cárdenas and Fernandez are unclear, although former prisoners in similar circumstances in the past were allowed to fly to the United States hours after their release.
This story has been updated with additional reporting Tuesday.