It sent a promising signal, the families said, that the Biden administration will make the release of their loved ones a priority, and they expressed hope that the top US diplomat’s investment would translate into bringing their family members home.
The video call was well-attended by family members and officials from hostage advocacy organizations, including the Foley Foundation, according to those who spoke to CNN. Blinken took time beyond the allotted hour to field questions from those in attendance.
“It truly was a great gesture from him to take time to speak with families like us — and so soon, just a week since being confirmed,” said Cristina Vadell, whose father, Tomeu Vadell, is another member of the “CITGO 6.”
Some of the family members who spoke to CNN said they thought the call would buoy their spirits of their loved ones. Several said Blinken indicated that this was just an introduction and it would not be the last time he spoke with them.
In a readout of the call, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken “stressed the importance the Biden-Harris Administration places on transparency in our communications with families and ensured that their family members are a top priority in our diplomatic engagements with both allies and adversaries.”
Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who was asked to stay on after serving during the Trump administration, said he left the call “feeling motivated, optimistic, and (frankly) emotional.”
However, despite their optimism, several family members pointed out that work remains for the government as well as for the personal advocacy on behalf of their loved ones.
“The family is constantly involved in working for their loved ones’ release until their loved one comes home,” said Whelan, who described it as sometimes overwhelming.
Others also noted that it was a call in which they wished they didn’t have to participate.
“Everyone doesn’t really want to be on that call, right, because of what it means. It’s unfortunate. But at the same time, I’m pretty sure that when everybody hung up, each family, no matter how encouraged they were or weren’t with whatever he said, felt just at least a little bit better,” Vadell said.