state department building
CNN  — 

Three Americans were detained in Venezuela earlier this year, including Los Angeles-based lawyer Eyvin Hernandez, a Venezuelan legal source told CNN.

Hernandez, 44, was arrested in the state of Tachira, the source said. The two other Americans were detained in Venezuela around the same time, according to the source. A US State Department spokesperson confirmed the arrest of US citizens in the country, saying the arrests took place in January and March of this year.

“We take seriously our commitment to assist US citizens abroad. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday. They did not confirm how many Americans were detained.

There are now about half a dozen Americans who are considered wrongfully detained by the State Department in the country. Last month, US Marine Corps veteran Matthew Heath, who was arrested nearly two years ago, attempted to kill himself, and two top State Department officials traveled to Venezuela to meet with the Americans detained there and officials from the Maduro regime.

In addition to Heath, five of the six American oil executives known collectively as the “CITGO 6”– Tomeu Vadell, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira – remain in Venezuela and are deemed to be wrongfully detained after being arrested more than four years ago. Two other Americans, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, are also being detained in the country, as well as Hernandez and the two unnamed Americans.

Diplomatic efforts are ongoing and last month US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens and Ambassador James Story, who leads the US Venezuela Affairs Unit, traveled to Venezuela in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of detained Americans.

“The U.S. officials’ visit to Venezuela focused on securing the release of U.S. wrongful detainees,” a State Department spokesperson said at the time. “Both SPEHA Carstens and Ambassador Story pressed regime officials for the immediate release of all wrongful detainees.”

CNN reported that Carstens met with wrongfully detained Americans while in the capital city of Caracas. Carstens also discussed “with senior Maduro regime officials the importance of ensuring that they receive appropriate care where needed,” a State Department spokesperson previously told CNN.

Prior to the news coming out that more Americans have been detained, several family members of other Americans held in Venezuela called on President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to fire Story, stating that they believe he is not doing enough to secure the release of their loved ones.

“Our family is expressing ‘no confidence’ in Ambassador Story and calling on President Biden and Secretary Blinken to immediately remove him from his position and replace him with a new ambassador who shares President Biden’s values,” Everett Rutherford, Heath’s Uncle, wrote in a news release circulated on Monday.

Alexandra Forseth, the daughter of Alirio Jose Zambrano and niece of Jose Luis Zambarno, who are both part of the CITGO 6, also stated her lack of confidence in Story in the news release.

“My dad and uncle are in a life-or-death struggle, and every single day counts. I have no confidence in Ambassador Story because he is not treating the cases of the Americans wrongfully detained in Venezuela as a top priority,” Forseth said.

Story is a career foreign service officer who was nominated and confirmed to be ambassador under President Donald Trump in 2020. He is based in Bogota, Colombia, because the US withdrew diplomatic personnel from Venezuela in 2019.

Story did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the news release. A State Department spokesperson did not comment on the specific allegations.

“We are grateful for the partnership, feedback and advocacy of families who have loved ones wrongfully detained abroad,” the spokesperson said.