American Imprisoned in Venezuela is Feted at White House Following His Release


Hatch and Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, also lobbied on behalf of Holt and decried his poor treatment in prison.

Instead, the couple was arrested on June 30 at her family's apartment in a government housing complex on the outskirts of Caracas.

Trump invited Joshua Holt, 26, of Riverton, Utah, and his family to the White House after Holt's expected arrival in Washington on a flight out of Venezuela.

"You were a tough one!"

"Pastor Brunson, I hope you can hear us, we'll be helping you", Trump said.

"You've been very fearless, actually".

Trump also said that his administration is "in the midst of some very big negotiations" in an effort to secure the release of other individuals.

Geoff Ramsey, of the Washington Office on Latin America, which advocates for human rights, said that by releasing Holt, Maduro "wants the world to know he is willing to talk".

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".

Venezuelan officials accused Holt of stockpiling weapons and attempting to destabilize the government.

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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 temper Trump's hardline approach toward Venezuela.

Holt joked that the time he spent in Venezuela was "not really the great vacation that I was looking for", and said that he was "so grateful", describing himself as "a normal person".

Finally, through the Senate office of Senator Orrin Hatch and the State Department, the Maduro government relented and released Josh and his wife from custody.

"In the end, Corker was the closer", the official said.

Corker on Saturday boarded a jet outside of Caracas with Joshua Holt and his wife destined for Washington.

Trump had previewed his plans to meet Holt earlier in the day on Twitter.

Other members of Congress expressed their elation over Holt's release. One of the directors of the group said at least 14 dissidents had been jailed this week.

He apparently was referring to U.S. sanctions, which Washington has tightened since Maduro was re-elected on May 20 in elections that the United States rejected as a "sham". "It's a measure meant to somehow lower tensions".

Holt's Venezuelan wife, Thamara, was arrested alongside him, but was also freed on Saturday and brought to the United States with her daughter. The two have been held without trial since they were arrested shortly after the wedding in 2016.

A source familiar with the issue, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters there was no quid pro quo or agreement to ease US sanctions tied to Holt's release, and that Trump was not involved in the final negotiations. On May 16, Holt issued dramatic videos from his prison cell following a riot.