Trump welcomes American prisoner freed by Venezuela

Mormon missionary from Utah jailed in Venezuela without trial released after two years

Joshua Holt arrived Saturday evening at Washington Dulles International Airport. When the once-unimaginable voyage resumed Holt had a big smile on his face, Corker told Trump in an Oval Office meeting Saturday night surrounded by the Utah man and his family. -Venezuelan tensions that in the last week saw tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, Washington's refusal to recognize the May 20 re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and the imposition of new US sanctions on Caracas.

Venezuelan Minister of Communications Jorge Rodriguez announced Saturday that the country's judiciary had freed American citizen Joshua Holt and his wife, who had been arrested and charged with espionage and illegally carrying weapons.

"Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela", Trump tweeted.

"The great people of Utah will be very happy", Trump wrote.

The White House learned from Corker on Friday of Holt's impending release, according to a US official who has closely followed Holt's plight and spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.

Trump said Holt was among those inside the Helicoide prison during a rebellion against guards last week. "A lot more than people can endure". Maduro handed over Holt and his wife, Thamara Caleno, to Corker in what his government said was a goodwill gesture to promote dialogue and mutual respect between the two antagonistic governments.

An official with the National Security Council stressed that nothing had been offered to secure Holt's release. Maduro's autocratic regime faces sanctions on its financial sector, moves meant to punish the government without further hurting a hungry and downtrodden population.

Venezuela - once one of Latin America's most prosperous countries - has the world's largest oil reserves but oil production has fallen sharply in recent years as corruption, disinvestment and the loss of skilled workers take their toll.

Surrounded by his family on one couch, and the lawmakers who had long sought his release on another, Holt was welcomed home in remarks to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House Sunday evening.

"They came back from a very tough ordeal in a Venezuelan prison nearly two years, Josh - and, you know, unbelievable that you were able to take it", Trump said.

"I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family", Hatch said. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led to a surprise breakthrough.

It's not clear if Holt's release portends a thawing of relations between the two normally hostile governments.

Maduro was re-elected to a six-year term last week, but the US joins other countries in rejecting the outcome, widely seen as a result of vote-rigging. On Friday, the government freed 20 political prisoners in the interior state of Zulia.

The Venezuelan president then retaliated by giving the two top USA diplomats in the country 48 hours to leave, accusing them of conspiring against his government.

The Herald said Holt was a former Mormon missionary who was detained in Caracas along with his wife, Thamara Caleño, on charges his legal team claimed were false.

His family says Holt was framed on the weapons charges and the United States accused Caracas of using him as a bargaining chip in sanctions talks.

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