The relative of two Americans freed in a prisoner exchange with Venezuela this weekend ripped into GOP Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday for his criticism of the exchange, calling his comments “unpatriotic and unhelpful” and questioning his support for the seven wrongly jailed US citizens.
“I find these comments extremely unhelpful and misinformed. He’s — I’m disappointed that a leader in our country is perpetuating this myth that returning our people home puts Americans in danger,” said Alexandra Forseth, daughter of Alirio Zambrano and niece of Jose Luis Zambrano, two of the seven freed Americans, CNN’s Alex Marquardt said on New Day.
“And you know what I would ask Sen. Rubio, you supported bringing her home, you did absolutely nothing for me or my family or most of these men and any of the families can tell you that,” she continued. “And he even had a constituent from his state who got fired and I would ask what have you done for his family? How did you support them?”
“I find his comments unpatriotic and unhelpful,” Forseth said.
On Sunday, Rubio questioned the decision to swap the seven wrongly jailed Americans for two Venezuelans jailed in the US for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the country, both nephews of Venezuela’s First Lady Cilia Flores. The Florida senator warned that the trade “puts Americans around the world at risk.”
“I wanted these people released just like everyone else, but every time you do that now, other people know, ‘I can take Americans, I can hold them until I need something to negotiate with,'” Rubio said. the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union.
“I think taking seven innocent American hostages in exchange for two convicted drug dealers who just so happened to be the nephews of (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro is a huge asset to Maduro and unfortunately now puts Americans around the world at risk,” Rubio said.
The Zambrano brothers make up five of the six along with Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell and Jose Pereira American oil managers known as the “CITGO 6” who were arrested in Venezuela more than four years ago. Two Americans detained there, including one of the CITGO 6, were released in March after two senior US government officials visited Caracas. The other Americans freed Saturday are Matthew Heath, a Navy veteran arrested in September 2020, and Osman Khan, who has been jailed since January 2022. All seven people have been deemed wrongfully imprisoned by the US government.
In August, Alirio Zambrano handwritten a request to President Joe Biden to take decisive action to free him and his fellow inmates, telling Biden, “I’m afraid I will never see my family again.”
“I don’t know how much longer we can wait; but I know people who have died here and I fear the same fate could strike any of us at any time,” he wrote in the letter, dated August 28.
His daughter said on New Day that the news of her relatives’ return was the “greatest relief and euphoria I could ever describe.”
“It’s been quite a trial and tribulation, but I’m so grateful we were finally able to bring her home,” Forseth said.