Trump announces release of US citizen jailed in Venezuela

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Washington, May 27 (IANS) US President DOnald Trump on Saturday said an American citizen jailed in Venezuela since 2016 had been released.

“Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela. Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 p.m. The great people of Utah will be very happy!” Trump wrote on Twitter in reference to Joshua Holt, a Mormon missionary from that US state.

Holt’s release came after Republican Senator Bob Corker visited Caracas this week to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to seek the US citizen’s freedom, according to local media.

Holt traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Thamara Candelo, a Venezuelan he met on the Internet, and stayed in the South American country temporarily while waiting to obtain their US visas.

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Two weeks after their wedding, Venezuelan authorities arrested the couple at her family home, and then-Interior and Justice Minister Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez said that in the raid they found rifles and ammunition, a grenade and detailed maps of Caracas.

Last May 18, Holt was involved in a prison riot at the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Services (Sebin) that went on for several hours, and from there called his mother Laurie Moon Holt, who said that her son feared for his life.

The riot was followed by various demands by US officials in Caracas to visit Holt so they could make sure his health was not in danger.

After the presidential election in Venezuela last Sunday, the US stepped up the diplomatic pressure against that country, which led to reciprocal expulsions of representatives of both countries.

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Meanwhile, the director of the Venezuelan NGO Penal Forum, Gonzalo Himiob, said Saturday that Holt, a US prisoner in Venezuela since 2016, “will be taken to the embassy (of his country) and from there is expected to leave for the US in the afternoon,” after Trump’s announcement that he had been released.

“Trump confirmed that the release occurred today (Saturday) as previously indicated, not yesterday. He spent the night in the Sebin and will be taken to the embassy, from where he is expected to leave for the US in the afternoon,” Himiob said on Twitter.

–IANS

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