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American Held in Venezuela Back on US Soil


President Donald Trump shakes hands with Joshua Holt, who was recently released from a prison in Venezuela, in the Oval Office of the White House, May 26, 2018, in Washington.

An American who had been held as a prisoner in Venezuela since the summer of 2016, is back on U.S. soil.

Joshua Holt and his Venezuelan wife, Thamy Candelo, arrived in the U.S. accompanied by Senator Bob Corker, who helped negotiate their release.

Holt and his wife had been imprisoned in Venezuela for two years on charges of concealing weapons.

Corker met Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for talks Friday.

“Very glad that Josh Holt is now back home with his family — where he has always belonged,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a tweet. “Sanctions continue until democracy returns to Venezuela.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, who represents Holt's home state of Utah, posted on Twitter he helped secure the release of Holt and his wife, Thamy.

"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 ..."

Hatch also thanked U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who met in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas Friday with President Nicolas Maduro in an attempt to secure the release of Holt. Holt has been in a Caracas jail without a trial for two years on what he has said are false weapons charges.

The family of Joshua Holt, who was recently released from a prison in Venezuela, father Jason Holt, left; daughter, Marian Leal; mother, Laurie Holt, and his wife, Thamara Holt, right, sit on a couch in the Oval Office of the White House, May 26, 2018, in Washington.
The family of Joshua Holt, who was recently released from a prison in Venezuela, father Jason Holt, left; daughter, Marian Leal; mother, Laurie Holt, and his wife, Thamara Holt, right, sit on a couch in the Oval Office of the White House, May 26, 2018, in Washington.

The 26-year-old Holt traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry a woman he met online. Police arrested Holt after finding an assault rifle and grenades during a raid on a housing complex where the couple lived. Holt has denied the charges.

After Corker's meeting with Maduro, there was speculation on social media platforms in Venezuela that the couple would be released as a goodwill gesture to improve U.S.-Venezuelan relations.

Maduro won a second six-year term in office Sunday in an election that the U.S. and other countries have described as a "sham" after several rivals were prohibited from running.

After his victory, Maduro expelled the two most senior U.S. diplomats for allegedly conspiring to sabotage the election by pushing opposition parties to boycott the election.

Despite the expulsion of the American diplomats, the Venezuelan government has been seeking ways to avoid the threat of harsh U.S. oil sanctions that could further cripple the country's ailing economy.

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