American jailed for 2 years on his way home
Joshua Holt, who traveled to Venezuela from Utah in 2016 to marry a Spanish-speaking Mormon woman but soon found himself jailed and later branded the CIA’s top spy in Latin America, was set free by the anti-American Maduro government on Saturday in what his family called “this miracle.”
The release of Holt and his wife, Thamara Caleno, and their departure for Washington came one day after an influential U.S. senator held a surprise meeting in Caracas with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who the Trump administration says runs a “dictatorship” and just won re-election in a “sham” vote.
Their get-together was the result of months of backchannel talks between an aide to Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and allies of Maduro. Yet Holt’s release had seemed unlikely even a week ago.
President Donald Trump, in a tweet, described Holt as a “hostage” and said he expected to host Holt and his family at the White House on Saturday evening. “Good news about the release,” he wrote. The U.S. contended Holt was held on trumped up charges.
The White House learned from Corker, RTenn., on Friday of Holt’s impending release, according to a U.S. official who has closely followed Holt’s plight and spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.
Joshua Holt, his wife Thamara and her daughter Marian Leal board a plane at the airport in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday. Jailed in Venezuela on weapons charges nearly two years ago, Holt was released Saturday after a U.S. senator pressed for his freedom in a surprise meeting with President Nicolas Maduro.