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Venezuela frees US missionary Josh Holt after two years

29 May, 2018, 08:01 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • American Citizen Held in Venezuela Released, Trump Announces

President Donald Trump has welcomed to the White House an American held for two years in a Venezuelan jail, saying the Utah man has undergone a "very tough ordeal".

Corker, who led efforts to get Holt and his wife released, traveled to Venezuela to meet with President Nicolás Maduro and said it was "quite an experience".

"Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela", President Donald Trump said via Twitter.

It is understandable that Senator Corker - as well as Senators Orrin Hatch and Dick Durbin, who reportedly participated in the negotiations to free the pair - would express satisfaction for the release of Joshua Holt.

The president met with Josh Holt Saturday at the White House, just moments after he touched down on USA soil with his wife.

"The great people of Utah will be very happy!"

"I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude", Holt told Trump.

An Idaho native who has been held prisoner in Venezuela for two years will be released Saturday and reunited with his family.

After Trump strengthened the sanctions, Maduro retaliated by giving the two top United States diplomats in the country 48 hours to leave, accusing them of conspiring against his government.

He added: "I could not be more honoured to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton".

The couple will be meeting with President Trump at the White House this evening. "The United States stands steadfast in support of the Venezuelan people and their efforts to return to democracy", Pompeo said in a statement.

Trump asked everyone sitting with him in the Oval Office to speak about Holt's release but was surprised - and amused - when Lee turned to Holt's daughter to address her in Spanish.

After shaking Hatch's hand, Holt embraced his mother, who was crying, for a full 30 seconds.

"They were a very, very, very hard two years", he said.

"We want everybody aware", said Linda Rogers, a friend of the Holt family.

His release comes after lobbying by his family and USA officials.

Geoff Ramsey, of the Washington Office on Latin America, which advocates for human rights, said that by releasing Holt, Maduro "wants the world to know he is willing to talk". Restatements of demands for his release were issued by senior U.S. politicians, and Todd Robinson, then the chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, showed up at Venezuela's Foreign Affairs Ministry in Caracas to demand information about his safety.

Speculation swirled that the government was demanding an all-but-impossible prisoner exchange for Flores' two nephews, who in 2016 were convicted in NY of drug trafficking, after it was learned that a government-connected Venezuelan tycoon was paying Holt's legal fees as well as those of the men branded the "narco-nephews".

"I can't deceive anybody, they are going to create grave difficulties, painful difficulties", he said. State Department officials lined the back wall of the Oval Office.

After being sworn in for a new six-year term this week - in a vote condemned by the U.S.as a "sham" after the main opposition parties boycotted it - Maduro called for the release of some detained prisoners, without naming anyone specifically.

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