Joshua Holt case: US sanctions 'to stay' despite prisoner release


US President Donald Trump with Joshua Holt in the White House. 26 May 2018Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Joshua Holt went straight to the White House to be welcomed by President Trump

US Vice-President Mike Pence says sanctions will remain on Venezuela despite the release of a US prisoner and his wife on Saturday.

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

Mr Holt later met President Donald Trump at the White House.

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

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

The couple were detained in 2016 at her family’s house in the capital Caracas while waiting for US visas, and accused of hiding weapons. Both were jailed for two years.

Mr Corker had held talks on Friday with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The US senator shared a picture of himself with the couple after their release, adding: “We are on our way home.”

Sitting alongside Mr Holt in the Oval Office, President Trump told him he had been “incredibly brave.”

“It’s amazing that you were able to take it… that was a tough situation,” he said with Mr Holt’s family looking on.

Mr Holt said he was “overwhelmed” to be back home.

“I’m just so grateful for what you guys have done, and for thinking about me, and caring about me, just a normal person,” he added. “It really touches me.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Joshua Holt’s parents, his wife Thamy and her daughter Marian Leal were also guests at the White House

A spokesman for Mr Maduro said the couple’s release was a “gesture” aimed at improving dialogue between Venezuela and the US.

Mr Maduro was re-elected to a six-year term last week, but Washington has refused to recognise the outcome. The election was marred by an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging.

The US had previously accused Venezuela of using Mr Holt as a bargaining chip towards changing Washington’s sanctions policy on the country.

Venezuela has not discussed the nature of the talks with Mr Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but said they were “good news for the Venezuelan people”.

Mr Holt is a former Mormon missionary from Utah who had travelled to Caracas in June 2016 to marry his Venezuelan girlfriend, Thamy Candelo.

She is also a Mormon and the couple intended that Ms Candelo and her children would move with Mr Holt to the US following the marriage, but they were arrested instead.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who said he had worked with two presidential administrations and various contacts, including President Maduro, on the release, said that he “could not be more honoured to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family”.

Image copyright
Laurie Moon Holt Facebook account

Image caption

Joshua Holt had travelled to Caracas to marry his Venezuelan girlfriend Thamy Candelo

Mr Maduro has frequently accused the US of trying to overthrow him and the US has tightened sanctions recently. Only on Tuesday, he expelled the senior US representative in the country, Todd Robinson.

Venezuela is five years into an economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and severe shortages in food and medicine.

Turnout was low in last Sunday’s election, boycotted by much of the opposition. Mr Maduro was credited with winning 68% of the vote.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *