U.S. sanctions on Venezuela to continue, Pence says

Monday, 28 May, 2018

Sen. Orrin Hatch says on Twitter that Joshua Holt has been freed.

Holt said he was overwhelmed with gratitude and thanked everyone who was involved in his release. Venezuelan officials released the Holts after high-level talks between President Nicolas Maduro and USA lawmakers.

Holt, who was arrested in June 2016 while he was in the country for his wedding to his Venezuela-born wife, said he was "overwhelmed" to be back home after two very hard years.

Soon after they married, the couple was arrested by the Venezuelan intelligence service Sebin, and accused of possessing weapons and plotting to destabilise the Maduro government.

Holt and his wife, Thamy, have been held in a Venezuelan prison since 2016. Sen.

"I just wanted to ask and plea once again-to my government, to my people, to my senators, to everyone in the United States to please not leave me alone here", Holt said.

"I am pleased to join Senator Hatch and President Trump in announcing the release of Josh and Thamy Holt", Corker said in a statement.

"This type of gesture. allows us to consolidate what has always been our standpoint: dialogue, agreement, respect for our independence, respect for our sovereignty", Rodriguez said.

Mr Holt and his wife arrived on Saturday evening (local time) at Washington Dulles International Airport for a tearful reunion with his parents, Laurie and Jason Holt.

Trump later hosted the family in the Oval Office and told Holt he was "brave" and "went through a lot".

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke to Trump at length Friday night and later said the couple's release "will in no way change USA policy toward the dictatorship in Venezuela". Yet Holt's release had seemed unlikely even a week ago.

"I can't deceive anybody, they are going to create grave difficulties, painful difficulties", he said.

The couple will be meeting with President Trump at the White House this evening.

"We've had 17 prisoners released during the Trump administration", Trump said while seated next to Holt.

Holt's Venezuelan wife, Thamara, was arrested alongside him, but was also freed on Saturday and brought to the United States with her daughter.

Mr Trump, in a tweet, described Mr Holt as a "hostage". Maduro responded by expelling the U.S. Embassy's charge d'affaires and his deputy from Venezuela.

Venezuelan law enforcement allege that the American man had stockpiled weapons in his wife's family's apartment inside a public housing complex in Caracas, the nation's capital. "Sanctions continue until democracy returns to Venezuela", Pence said in a tweet.

The move additionally comes as Maduro is seeking to boost his legitimacy in the wake of last week's election, in which he won a new six-year term after a vote condemned internationally as a fraudulent power grab. On Friday, the government freed 20 political prisoners in the interior state of Zulia.