Trump welcomes released Americans held in Venezuela to the White House
Donald Trump welcomed an American couple, Josh and Thamy Holt, to the White House last night after securing their release from a Venezuelan prison on Friday.
Their freedom was negotiated by the Trump administration and the office of Senator Orrin Hatch. The senator posted a video of the reunion:
Reunited. pic.twitter.com/Lb43PfEVXQ— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) May 26, 2018
Holt and his wife were freed overnight and released to the US Embassy in Caracas, according to Foro Penal, a human rights organization of lawyers and others who assist political prisoners in Venezuela. The couple was joined by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee as they flew back to the US on Saturday afternoon.
The U.S. "offered nothing" to Venezuelan leadership in exchange for the release of Holt, two White House National Security Council officials told CNN.
"We're grateful to all who participated in this miracle," Holt's family said in a statement.
"Over the last two years I've worked with two Presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contacts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela, and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton," Hatch said in a statement earlier on Saturday.
"I want to thank (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) Chairman Bob Corker for his pivotal efforts, and that of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for their help in this effort. I want to particularly thank Caleb McCarry, whose expertise and effort in Venezuela on my behalf has been instrumental in bringing Josh home," he said, referring to an aide of Corker's.
"I am pleased to join Senator Hatch and President Trump in announcing the release of Josh and Thamy Holt," Corker said in a statement. "Senator Hatch has worked tirelessly on the Holt family's behalf, and I was honored to play a small role in bringing Josh and his wife home to the United States. I also would like to thank Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo and his team at the State Department for all that they have done."
Probably not coincidentally, Senator Corker met with President Maduro on Friday.
The Holt odyssey began in June of 2016 when Josh travelled to Venezyuela to marry Thamy, who he met online. A few days after the ceremony police burst into his hotel room and accused him of being in possession of automatic weapons - a ludicrous charge denied by Holt and the US government. He has been in prison since July, 2016.
The effort to free him gained some impetus last week:
Holt's release comes more than a week after he posted videos to Facebook during a prison riot, pleading for help from Americans and the US government. In one video he said, "I've been begging my government for two years. They say they're doing things, but I'm still here."
The Holts were political prisoners, held unjustly in horrible conditions. And while the White House says they gave Venezuela nothing in return, there are two Maduro relatives who are serving long prison sentences for drugs. It may not have been a straight up exchange, but the two convicts bear watching over the coming weeks to see if they are granted release.
Trump's efforts to release Americans held captive in North Korea and Venezuela stand in stark contrast to President Obama's efforts while he was in office. Why Trump has had success while Obama didn't will come out someday, but it seems in both cases, Kim and Maduro desperately want better relations with the US.