Earlier this month on 1st October, Jose Pereira and six other innocent Americans who were wrongfully imprisoned in Venezuela for years were freed in a prisoner swap between the United States and Venezuela. Jose lives in Houston, Texas and was acting President and CEO for US oil company, CITGO Petroleum. In November 2017 shortly before Thanksgiving, Jose was instructed to travel to Venezuela with a few of his senior management colleagues to attend a business meeting in Caracas. During that meeting, Jose and his five American colleagues were arrested on false charges and were wrongfully imprisoned in the country. Collectively, they were known as the CITGO 6.
On this episode, we have the honour of speaking to Jose Pereira himself. This is the first time we’ve got to interview a former hostage who we campaigned for on this podcast and we’re so happy that he is now free and back home reunited with his family. We interviewed Jose’s son, John Pereira in August when his father was still in prison and we discussed Jose’s detention in detail and the efforts to secure his release. Jose adds to this by letting us know what it was like from his perspective.
Jose walks us through his release from the moment he found out he was finally going home to the moment the plane landed in the United States where he was reunited with family after almost five years. Jose talks about spending 10 days in the US Department of Defense’s medical facility where he underwent the decompression process, meeting his grandson for the first time, how he’s doing now and his plans for the future. Since returning home, Jose has been raising awareness of other hostages and wrongful detainees held around the world. He tells us why this is very important to him. Jose also talks about the changes around the world that have stood out to him as he feels that he has been frozen in time for the last five years.
Jose talks about finding solace in religion and finding the strength to keep on going during his years in prison. He started out reading a mini-Bible in his prison cell under candle light which was smuggled in by one of the other prisoners which eventually grew to become a Bible study group with around 150 prisoners.
We discuss what the US government should be doing better including the difference in treatment of American citizens and American lawful permanent residents held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. We also discuss what it was like being left behind in March this year when the US government freed Jose’s colleague, Gustavo Cardenas and left the other five members of the CITGO 6 behind.
Most importantly, Jose gives recommendations to the families with loved ones still held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. We then end this episode discussing what journalists and the public can do to help.
If you prefer, you can watch the video version of this interview on YouTube.
For more information on Jose Pereira, please check out the following:
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