Jailed U.S. Citizen Visits White House After Venezuela Release

Jailed U.S. Citizen Visits White House After Venezuela Release

A Utah man freed this weekend after being held in a Venezuelan jail for almost two years is scheduled to return to Salt Lake City on Monday night after getting medical care and visiting President Donald Trump in Washington.

The couple was released shortly after Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

After expressing her appreciation to the president and United States officials Holt's mother Laurie added: "I also want to say thank you to President Maduro for releasing Josh and letting him come home".

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah announced his office helped secure Holt's release.

"Looking forward to seeing Joshua Holt this evening in the White House", he tweeted. "The great people of Utah are Celebrating!"

Holt, a 26-year-old Utahn, had traveled to Venezuela in 2016 to marry a woman he had met online.

Both Holt and US officials have denied all charges.

The White House press secretary's office released a statement late Saturday, saying Holt's release "does not change United States policy".

A day after Maduro's swearing-in, the US prohibited purchases of debt owed to the Venezuelan government, including to its state-run oil company.

"I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton", Hatch said.

"We've had 17 prisoners released during the Trump administration", Trump said while seated next to Holt.

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"You understood that beautifully", Trump said to Holt's Venezuelan daughter.

"The Maduro regime must call free, fair, and transparent elections, consistent with its constitution", a statement issued by the White House said.

Other members of Congress expressed their elation over Holt's release.

"It's unbelievable that you were able to take it. that was a tough situation", Trump said during a televised meeting at the Oval Office with Holt and his parents.

Holt said he was overwhelmed with gratitude and thanked everyone who was involved in his release. "I need your help to get me out of this place", Holt said in the video.

USA authorities had been denied access to a court hearing on Holt's case in December, with Trump labelling the USA citizen a "hostage" of the Venezuela administration.

The couple arrived in Washington on Saturday after secret, backchannel negotiations between a US congressional staffer and Venezuelan officials finally secured his freedom.

Josh's family says they are humbled by the outpouring of support.

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".

Maduro won a second six-year term in office May 20 in an election that the US and other countries have described as a "sham" after several rivals were prohibited from running.

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