Trump says detained American released in Venezuela

Clay Curtis
May 26, 2018

The release of Holt and his wife, Thamara Caleno, and their departure for Washington came one day after an influential US senator held a surprise meeting in Caracas with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who the Trump administration says runs a "dictatorship" and just won re-election in a "sham" vote. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a tweet, adding that Holt soon would be reunited with "his sweet, long-suffering family".

The president said Holt will join his family at the White House at about 7:00 p.m. Saturday evening.

"It was a very good meeting, it is good news for the Venezuelan people", Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez told reporters, though he did not provide an account of the meeting.

Holt's mother Laurie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Friday, the government released 20 jailed activists held in the western state of Zulia amid moves by Maduro to ease domestic tensions. -Venezuelan tensions that in the last week saw tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, Washington's refusal to recognize the May 19 re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and the imposition of new US sanctions on Caracas.

Mr Maduro has frequently accused the United States of trying to overthrow him and the U.S. has tightened sanctions recently.

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Earlier in May, Holt made an emotional plea for Americans' help in getting him out of the Caracas jail, saying in a clandestinely shot video that his life was threatened during a riot in the country's most-notorious prison. Holt denies the charges.

Hatch issued a statement shortly after the president's tweet.

A spokesman for Mr Maduro said the couple's release was a "gesture" aimed at improving dialogue between Caracas and Washington.

The US has previously accused Venezuela of using Mr Holt as a bargaining chip towards changing Washington's sanctions policy on the country.

In addition to Holt, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas has said that other "Americans" are being held at the prison, though it has declined to offer details on their cases citing privacy laws.

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