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

Leroy Wright
May 28, 2018

President Donald Trump tweets that it's "good news", and says Holt is expected to land in Washington, and come to the White House with his family at about 7 p.m.

Sitting with Trump and other US officials, Holt said he was "overwhelmed with gratitude" for those who worked for his release. The family expressed its gratitude for all who worked for the couple's release and asked to be allowed to meet Holt and his wife before making any public statements. He was arrested on suspicion of weapons charges. Holt's mother also thanked Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for releasing her son. In June of that year, he was arrested by the government, which accused him - with the help of planted evidence, observers say - of stockpiling weapons as part of an American efforts to topple the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Holt, who had been imprisoned in Venezuela for two years, was released following diplomat efforts by the Trump and Obama administrations.

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

Rep. Mia Love, a Republican from Holt's state of Utah, said the president told her the news directly.

"Very glad that Josh Holt is now back home with his family - where he has always belonged", U.S. Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter. Yet Holt's release had seemed unlikely even a week ago.

Sen. Hatch commented on the historic nature of the day, praising Trump for the "great things he was doing" for the country.

Venezuelan state television showed Corker and Maduro shaking hands Friday, before holding a closed door meeting at the presidential palace.

Holt and his wife had been charged with espionage, violence and spreading activities against Venezuela's constitutional order, he said.

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He added: "And then you can say it's perjury, which is even easier for them which is where I think they're going". Trump has called the informant a "spy" - a term current and former intelligence officials have refuted .

A Mormon missionary from Utah, Holt - called the "Gringo Agent" in Venezuela - became the ultimate example of an American in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maduro has blamed an "economic war" by the USA for his country's deteriorating finances and consequent social instability.

Trump, in a tweet, described Holt as a "hostage".

Authorities accused him of stockpiling an assault rifle and grenades, and suggested that his case was linked to other unspecified USA attempts to undermine Mr Maduro's rule amid deep economic and political turbulence.

The United States accuses Maduro's government of stifling democracy, repressing the opposition and massive corruption.

Last week, Maduro won a second term as president, despite the economic catastrophe he has presided over, in a vote that was labeled rigged by independent observers.

On Friday, human rights monitors reported the release of 20 activists who had been jailed in the western state of Zulia for protesting against the government.

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