Trump hails release of American jailed in Venezuela for two years

Holt was held in Venezuela for two years

Holt was held in Venezuela for two years

A Utah man jailed in Venezuela on weapons charges almost two years ago was released Saturday after a us senator pressed for his freedom in a surprise meeting with President Nicolas Maduro.

Holt and his Venezuelan wife, Thamara Candelo, arrived in the U.S. Saturday accompanied by Senator Bob Corker, who helped negotiate their release. "Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 P.M". A day earlier, he described the encounter between Maduro and Corker as "a very good meeting; it is good news for the Venezuelan people".

Holt travelled to Venezuela in 2016 to marry a woman he met on the internet while he was looking for Spanish-speaking Mormons to help him improve his Spanish.

Their trial was set to begin this month after repeated delays that led the Trump administration to question the motives for his detention, although until Trump's tweet Saturday, the US had stopped short of publicly calling Holt a "hostage".

A White House spokesperson thanked the Maduro "regime" for releasing the "unjustly detained" Holt from detention, but said U.S. foreign policy towards the country would not change. Hours earlier Maduro expelled the top American diplomat over the refusal of the recognize his re-election. "I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton", he said. In a later tweet, Trump said, "Looking forward to seeing Joshua Holt this evening in the White House".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter that while he welcomes Holt home, "U.S. policy toward Venezuela remains unchanged".

Trump asked everyone sitting with him in the Oval Office to speak about Holt's release but was surprised - and amused - when Lee turned to Holt's daughter to address her in Spanish.

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

Since his arrest, his mother, Laurie, worked to have her son freed from the prison, where she said he was being held on false charges and suffering from health problems. In the Holt transaction, both sides appear to have gotten what they want: the release of the prisoner for the US, and the appearance of legitimacy for Maduro.

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

Corker, in a statement, thanked Hatch and the president, as well as Caleb McCarry, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee staff who traveled with him to Caracas.

"I'm publishing this video saying everyone is fine here, I'm doing okay".

Sitting with Trump and other USA officials, Holt said he was "overwhelmed with gratitude" for those who worked for his release.

Maduro won a second six-year term in office May 20 in an election that the USA and other countries have described as a "sham" after several rivals were prohibited from running. State Department officials lined the back wall of the Oval Office.

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