American 'hostage' Josh Holt has been released from Venezuela, Trump says

American 'hostage' Josh Holt has been released from Venezuela, Trump says

Holt's release comes more than a week after he posted videos to Facebook during a prison riot, pleading for help from Americans and the U.S. government.

Holt's release came after Republican Senator Bob Corker visited Caracas this week to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to seek the U.S. citizen's freedom, according to local media. Holt had been accused by Venezuelan officials of stockpiling weapons and grenades in public housing, a charge that he denies, and his incarceration had become a major flash point in relations between Caracas and Washington.

Although Corker sealed the deal in a few tense hours in Venezuela's collapsing, crime-filled capital, the push to secure Holt's release began months earlier by Corker's top Latin American policy aide, Caleb McCarry, who both Corker and Sen.

U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a meeting with Joshua Holt after his return to the U.S.at the White House on May 26, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Venezuela's Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said their release was a goodwill gesture that followed months of dialogue between the Maduro Government and USA politicians.

He said it was part of "efforts to maintain a respectful dialogue, diplomatic relations of respect, that permit gates to be opened to avoid the aggressions to which (Venezuela) has been subjected". After Nicolas Maduro was re-elected president earlier this week, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions.

Holt traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry his wife Thamy, whom he had met online. Venezuela contended Holt was a spy involved in trying to destabilize the country. In December, the Justice Ministry chose to bring the couple to trial, and rejected a petition for his conditional release.

Holt and his wife, Thamy, have been held in a Venezuelan prison since 2016. Sen.

He surfaced in a video calling on the U.S. government to help get him out during a prison protest earlier this month by jailed opposition activists.

"I'm calling on the people of America".

"I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude", he told the president.

Hatch said in a statement that Corker had been "pivotal" in the effort to secure Holt's release, although the Tennessee lawmaker downplayed his role as "small". "Sanctions continue until democracy returns to Venezuela", US Vice-President Mike Pence said in a tweet.

"We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish", Holt's family said in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday.

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

The Trump administration tightened financial sanctions on cash-strapped Venezuela after the vote.

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

A spokesperson for the Venezuelan government said in a statement, "The Judicial Power gave the corresponding benefit of full freedom to these two citizens who at this time are flying to the United States". "We're doing all the right things". He thanked those in the room for supporting his wife through a "very, very, very hard two years".

Most economists attribute the oil-rich country's economic collapse to years of mismanagement, corruption and a period of sharply lower oil prices.

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