An American Imprisoned in Venezuela Has Been Released, Trump Says

May 26, 2018, 2:39 PM UTC
VENEZUELA-US-MADURO-CORKER
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) greets US senator Bob Corker (R) during the latter's visit to the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on May 25, 2018. - Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a surprise visit to Venezuela two days after Maduro expelled US charge d'affaires Todd Robinson and deputy head of mission Brian Naranjo. (Photo by FRANCISCO BATISTA / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO BATISTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Francisco Batista—AFP/Getty Images

An American imprisoned in Venezuela since 2016 has been released and is headed back to Washington after pressure from the U.S. government, President Donald Trump said.

“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.,” Trump said on Twitter. “The great people of Utah will be very happy!”

Joshua Holt’s release, which hadn’t been previously reported, came less than a day after Republican Senator Bob Corker met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas.

Maduro was shown shaking hands with Corker in images broadcast on state TV from the presidential palace, which said the two were “strengthening international relationships,” without offering more details.

Corker then walked out alongside Carabobo State Governor Rafael Lacava, who’s said to have visited Washington earlier in the year to discuss the release of Holt, a former Mormon missionary arrested in Caracas about 18 months ago, after he traveled there to marry his Venezuelan girlfriend.

Humanitarian Grounds

After being sworn in for a second six-year term this week, Maduro called for the release of some detained prisoners, without naming anyone specifically. Holt, who’s being held in the El Helicoide intelligence agency prison on weapons charges his family says are false, published a Facebook video earlier this month pleading for help and claiming his life was in danger.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this month that a senior department official had urged Holt’s release on humanitarian grounds.

Corker’s fellow Republican, Marco Rubio, lashed out at the Tennessee lawmaker on Friday for meeting with Maduro.

“Any U.S. Senator can meet with whoever they want. But no matter how many senators dictator Nicolas Maduro gets to meet with him, U.S. sanctions will go away when Maduro leaves and democracy returns,” Rubio said on Twitter.

The Florida senator is a longtime critic of Corker, who’s chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to which Rubio also belongs. Corker’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment. Rubio was more conciliatory after word of Holt’s release, tweeting that “his UNCONDITIONAL release was long overdue.”