Venezuela releases USA citizen after two years in Caracas prison

Joshua Holt in a Venezuelan jail holding a letter he received last Friday from Sen. Orrin Hatch

Joshua Holt in a Venezuelan jail holding a letter he received last Friday from Sen. Orrin Hatch

Venezuela released American Joshua Holt and his wife Saturday after almost two years in jail, in what its leftist government said was a gesture aimed at fostering dialogue with Washington to avert United States "aggressions".

Trump said Holt, 26, would be in Washington, D.C., Saturday evening at about 7 p.m. "We extend our special thanks to Senator Bob Corker, Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Mike Lee, Representative Mia Love, and all the other members of Congress who have worked on behalf of the Holt family over the past two years and helped to make this day a reality", he said. A secret backchannel has opened up in 2018, between normally hostile Venezuelan and US officials to discuss the possible release of Joshua Holt, jailed for more than 20 months in the volatile South American nation, multiple congressional sources have told the AP.

Maduro ordered the release after meeting with Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker in Caracas.

Joshua Holt, a US citizen and Mormon missionary, is pictured in this still image taken from a selfie video which he posted on Facebook during a riot at the Helicoide detention center in Caracas, Venezuela, obtained by Reuters May 16, 2018.

Matt Whitlock, a spokesman for Hatch, said the Utah Republican called Maduro last week after hearing of riots by inmates at the intelligence agency headquarters where Holt was held.

Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela. The couple was joined by Sen. They say they're doing things but I'm still here.'.

Holt and his wife were reunited at the Caracas airport with her daughter from a previous relationship, and all three boarded a chartered flight to Washington.

Joshua Holt arrived Saturday evening at Washington Dulles International Airport.

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"We are all, as a group, very happy", Trump said.

Corker said he was "honored to play a small role" in bringing the Holts back to the United States, and Hatch thanked him for his "pivotal efforts", as well as that of Caleb McCarry, a Corker foreign policy aide who accompanied Corker on the trip.

He was arrested shortly after arriving in Venezuela almost two years ago.

Holt, from Utah, was arrested in June 2016, after travelling to Venezuela to marry Thamara Caleño, a native of the country. The details were still being worked out, the official said.

Josh Holt's parents praised Trump, other administration officials and lawmakers involved in securing his and his wife's release.

"Very glad that Josh Holt is now back home with his family - where he has always belonged".

Nicmer Evans, a Venezuelan political analyst, said Holt's reversal of fortune comes as Maduro is trying to find legitimacy after that vote - and relief from a barrage of worldwide sanctions.

The Venezuelan economy is in shambles, with hyperinflation expected to hit 13,000 percent this year and dire shortages of food that have driven hundreds of thousands of citizens to pour into neighboring Colombia and Brazil.

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