Pres. Trump Welcomes US Citizen Jailed In Venezuela To White House

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Josh Holt, a US citizen who had traveled to Venezuela to marry a woman he met online, was released on Saturday after two years in a Caracas jail and has returned to the United States.

Speaking at a news conference in Caracas, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Holt and his wife, Thamy, were freed as part of efforts by Maduro's government to maintain "respectful diplomatic relations" with Washington.

Maybe it was sanctions relief, a distraction from worldwide condemnation of the election, an I.O.U. from Trump, or even a seat between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte at a future White House dinner, Kronick said in an email.

Alfredo Romero, a lawyer who defends some of the opposition activists who were held alongside Holt, said that Maduro may be looking to win over some political sectors in the U.S.to temper Trump's hardline approach toward Venezuela.

Holt was held for almost two years without standing trial.

"We're praying that this type of gesture... will allow us to strengthen what we've always sought: dialogue, harmony, respect for our independence and respect for our sovereignty", he said.
"He's not a spy", he's a "totally innocent man".

A day earlier, he described the encounter between Maduro and Corker as "a very good meeting; it is good news for the Venezuelan people".

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

Holt, a Utah native, arrived at the White House with his wife, Thamy, who had also been imprisoned, shortly after flying back from Venezuela earlier on Saturday.

Trump said Holt was among those inside the Helicoide prison during a rebellion against guards last week. The couple was waiting for Caleno's US visa when they were arrested at her family's apartment in a government housing complex for what the USA considered trumped-up charges of stockpiling an assault rifle and grenades.

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"You've gone through a lot, more than most people could endure", the President said to Holt as the two were seated side-by-side in the Oval Office late Saturday night.

An official with the National Security Council stressed that nothing had been offered to secure Holt's release. Washington also has considered an embargo on Venezuela's oil industry.

Holt's family says "we are grateful to all who participated in this miracle".

The release came two weeks after North Korea released three American hostages ahead of a planned summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un - a meeting Trump canceled but has since said could be rejuvenated.

The Holts were reunited with their family in a room at Dulles International Airport at about 7:10 p.m., according to Hatch's office, which posted a video of the gathering on Twitter.

"I want to thank Chairman Bob Corker for his pivotal efforts, and that of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for their help in this effort".

He was held for almost two years in Venezuela without going on trial.

Last week, the U.S. government denounced as a "sham" Maduro's recent victory in elections, in which he secured six more years in office.

After Trump strengthened the sanctions, Maduro retaliated by giving the two top U.S. diplomats in the country 48 hours to leave, accusing them of conspiring against his government.

In this image provided by the Holt family, Joshua Holt, his wife Thamara and her daughter Marian, board a plane at the airport in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday.

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