KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s been two years since an East Tennessee family says that their son, Matthew Heath, was wrongfully detained in Venezuela and labeled a spy.
Marine Corps Veteran Matthew Heath was reported to be arrested in September 2020. Heath’s family believes he’s being used as a political prisoner and pawn.
Despite contacting several U.S. government officials and working with advocates in the U.S. and Venezuela, Heath’s family says he remains inaccessible after being imprisoned, tortured and held as a political hostage.
“Two years of lost family time; lost time with his son,” Heath’s uncle Everett Rutherford said. “It’s a very difficult period for us.”
Heath’s family says in addition to being starved, electrically shocked, beaten and suffocated, the veteran recently attempted suicide.
This month also marks two years of efforts on the part of Heath’s family. They also say he still hasn’t received any real help or answers from the U.S. government.
“We’ve seen, essentially, no progress since the spring,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford is referring to March of this year when reports stated that Representative Roger Carstens returned to Venezuela with two unjustly detained American citizens.
“Certainly we’re happy to see anyone come home from any detention, but it would certainly be nice also to see more people come home in that process,” Rutherford said.
As Heath’s family members demand answers and progress, one woman remains in the center of the situation, Matthew’s mother, Connie Haynes.
“I don’t even know myself anymore,” Haynes said. “Every day, 24 hours, is for Matthew. I want the president to bring my son home. Do whatever it takes to talk to [President Nicolás] Maduro, to give him anything. We don’t have anything in this United States that’s worth my son. I just want him brought home.”
Heath’s story has been told several times over the past two years, both on the local and national levels. His uncle says it’s because the family aims to make sure Heath’s name and situation remain in the headlines.
“The fact of the matter is, the minute you step outside the United States into certain parts of the world, you’re a target because you’re an American,” Rutherford said. “It’s a constant struggle to make sure that we keep Matthew’s name and the concept of hostage and wrong detainees in the news as much as we possibly can.”
WATE has been told Heath is allowed to make a short phone call once a week. He is also monitored by his attorney in Venezuela.
See daily updates on Twitter, which are provided by members of Heath’s family.