Utah Man Released From Venezuela Prison, Trump to Welcome Him Home at the White House

An American imprisoned in Venezuela has been released after U.S. officials pressured the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro amid rising tensions within the South American country.

President Donald Trump praised the release of prisoner Joshua Holt, a Utah native, and said Holt and his family will be welcomed home at the White House on Saturday evening. 

Holt, 26, went to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry a woman he met online. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that Holt’s wife, Thamara Candelo, was also released, adding that Holt is headed to Riverton, Utah, to be reunited with “his sweet, long-suffering family,” according to The Associated Press.

Their release came after multiple lawmakers upped the pressure on the country’s socialist leader, including Hatch and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), as well as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who met with Maduro on Friday after the top U.S. diplomat to Venezuela was expelled from the country.

Amid Venezuela’s continuing economic collapse, U.S. officials worked to free Holt after he pleaded for help and described his life-threatening situation in prison.

Holt had planned to stay in Caracas for a few months last year to secure visas for Candelo and her daughters but was arrested under charges of using her apartment to stockpile weapons as part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Maduro government. Candelo was also arrested as an accomplice.

Holt’s mother, Laurie Holt, has worked since his imprisonment to bring attention to the case, saying the charges are false and decrying his poor treatment in the Caracas prison, where he suffered health problems.

“We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish,” the Holt family said in a statement upon their son’s release. “We ask that you allow us to meet with our son and his wife before giving any interviews and statements. We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle.”

Holt’s release comes after another high-profile prisoner release when North Korea agreed earlier this month to free three Americans detained by the regime of Kim Jong Un.

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