Daughter of American released from Venezuela says Marco Rubio’s prisoner swap criticism ‘unpatriotic and unhelpful’

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Washington
CNN

The relative of two Americans released this weekend in a prisoner swap with Venezuela Tore into GOP Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday over his criticism of the exchange, blasting his comments as “unpatriotic and unhelpful” and questioning his support for the seven wrongfully detained U.S. citizens.

“I think these comments were extremely inappropriate and misinformed. He is—I’m disappointed that a leader in our country perpetuates this myth that bringing our people home actually puts Americans at risk,” Alexandra Forseth, daughter of Alirio Zambrano and niece of Jose Luis Zambrano, two of the seven released Americans, CNN’s Alex Marquardt told “New Day.”

“And what I wanted to ask Senator Rubio is that you’ve supported bringing them home, you’ve done absolutely nothing for me or my family or most of these men, and any of the families can tell you that,” she went on. “And he even had a constituent from his state who was released, and I wanted to ask, what did you do for his family? How have you supported them?”

“I find his comments unpatriotic and unhelpful,” Forseth said.

On Sunday, Rubio questioned the decision to exchange the seven wrongfully detained Americans for two Venezuelans jailed in the United States for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the country, both nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores. The Florida senator warned that the trade “puts Americans around the world at risk.”

“I wanted those people released as much as anybody, but every time you do this, now, other people know, ‘I can take Americans, I can hold them until I need something like a bargaining chip,'” Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

“I think seven innocent American hostages in exchange for two convicted drug traffickers who happened to be the nephews of (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro is a huge victory for Maduro and unfortunately is now putting Americans around the world at risk.” Rubio said.

The Zambrano brothers, along with Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell and Jose Pereira, are five of the six American oil executives known as “CITGO 6” arrested in Venezuela more than four years ago. Two Americans who had been detained there, including one of the CITGO 6, were released in March after the visit of two top US government officials to Caracas. The other Americans released on Saturday are Matthew Heath, a Marine veteran who was detained in September 2020, and Osman Khan, who had been detained since January 2022. All seven people were classified by the US government as wrongfully detained.

In August, Alirio Zambrano issued a handwritten plea to President Joe Biden to act decisively to free him and his other wrongful detainees, telling Biden, “I’m afraid I’ll never see my family again.”

“I don’t know how long we can wait; but I know people who have died here and I fear the same fate may befall any of us at any time,” he wrote in the letter dated August 28.

His daughter said on “New Day” that learning of her relative’s return was the “greatest relief and sense of euphoria I could ever describe.”

“It’s been quite a trial and tribulation, but I’m so thankful that we were finally able to get them home,” Forseth said.

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