A Florida man has been reunited with his family just in time for Christmas after being released from Venezuela, along with a group of fellow Americans. This marks the end of a challenging and emotional journey filled with moments of hope and despair.
Joseph Cristella, along with five other U.S. citizens, arrived in Texas on Wednesday after participating in a prisoner swap agreement between the United States and Venezuela.
Stephanie Cristella, his cousin, shared with 7News the impact the ordeal had on him.
“We did everything in our power to bring him back home, and finally, we succeeded. He’s finally home,” she exclaimed.
Stephanie expressed her excitement to reunite with her cousin, whom she hasn’t had the chance to see since he was detained in Venezuela in September of last year.
According to the speaker, the individual in question has a fiancée who was feeling unwell and had to travel to Venezuela for a surgery. In an attempt to support and be near her, he went to Colombia where her family resides. However, unexpectedly, he was taken into custody. The speaker explains that he was falsely accused of conspiracy by the Venezuelans, with charges that were completely unfounded.
During his time in prison, Stephanie mentioned that his family made every effort to secure his release. They reached out to various organizations and news outlets, leaving no stone unturned. In addition to this, they created dedicated GoFundMe and Facebook pages with the sole purpose of bringing Joey back home.
Stephanie expressed her concern for her loved one’s safety as each day went by without him being on U.S. soil.
“It was really heartbreaking, and it felt like no one truly cared. Our families, the ones who were left behind, seemed to be forgotten,” she expressed with a hint of sadness in her voice.
Stephanie is now hopeful that her cousin can finally be reunited with his mother.
“We are determined to make a Christmas wish and a Christmas miracle come true for her so that she doesn’t have to spend another Christmas without him like she did last year,” she stated, referring to her friend who resides in Boise, Idaho.
According to the Biden administration, there are plans to release more Americans in the near future.
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