The Venezuelan government has released seven U.S. prisoners. This happened in exchange for the release of two family members of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from a US prison.
The freed Americans are five employees of the Texas oil company Citgo Petroleum, a former Marine, and a 24-year-old man from Florida. According to the US government, the seven were unfairly imprisoned in Venezuela.
The Venezuelans released by the U.S. are two of Maduros wifes nephews. They were arrested in Haiti in 2015 as a result of a large-scale US investigation into drug crime. They were convicted of drug smuggling in New York shortly afterwards.
The U.S. government calls the health of the prisoners released in Venezuela “stable”. President Biden spoke to their families on Saturday.
In 2017, the oil companys employees were lured to Venezuela for talks under false pretenses and taken by masked agents in the capital, Caracas. They were convicted of embezzlement by a Venezuelan judge last year but have always said they were innocent.
The ex-Marine from Tennessee and the Florida man were both arrested illegally crossing the border from Colombia, according to Venezuela.
The U.S. government has been under pressure for some time to release American prisoners abroad. For example, the case involving basketball star Brittney Griner, who is imprisoned in Russia for possession of prohibited substances, is getting a lot of attention in the US media.
In total, around 60 Americans are detained in countries with which the U.S. government has a disrupted relationship.