Venezuela exchanges 7 American prisoners for 2 relatives of Maduro

Venezuela has swapped seven American prisoners held in the South American country in exchange for two nephews of President Nicholas Maduro, who were jailed in the United States for drug trafficking, according to a report.

The prisoner swap, which includes five U.S. oil executives who worked for Houston-based Citgo, is the largest of the Biden presidency and involved months of secret negotiations, according to reports.

“We are relieved and happy to welcome home to their families today seven Americans who have been wrongfully detained for far too long in Venezuela,” said Joshua Geltzer, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor.

Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and Jose Pereira – were lured to Venezuela in 2017 to attend a meeting at the headquarters of parent company, state oil giant PDVSA, and were arrested on corruption charges. The executives were sentenced to between eight and 13 years in 2020. Gustavo Cardenas, another member of the oil executives group originally known as Citgo Six, was released in March.

It was the largest prisoner exchange to date under Biden’s presidency.

The arrests came amid a purge by Venezuela’s state oil company at a time when relations between the two countries were collapsing and protests erupted as Venezuela’s economy spiraled out of control.

Matthew Heath, a former U.S. Marine corporal from Tennessee, was also released. He was arrested in 2020 at a roadblock in Venezuela on what the State Department called “specious” weapons charges. Heath attempted suicide in his cell in June, according to reports.

Another American, Osman Khan, arrested in January, was also released by the Maduro government. The US State Department said all US prisoners were wrongfully detained in Venezuela.

The United States has released Franqui Flores and his cousin Efrain Campo, nephews of Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores.
Four other Americans are currently imprisoned in Venezuela.

The United States has released Franqui Flores and his cousin Efrain Campo, nephews of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores. The cousins, both neophyte drug traffickers, were arrested in Haiti in a 2015 Drug Enforcement Administration sting and taken to New York to stand trial for trying to ship 800 pounds of cocaine on a plane. from Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, where they planned to use their uncle’s private plane hangar. Both were convicted a year later.

Flores and Campo both won clemency from President Biden ahead of their release on Saturday.

Four other Americans are currently imprisoned in Venezuela, including two former Green Berets involved in a 2019 ouster of Maduro, and two other men who, like Khan, were arrested for entering the country illegally from neighboring Colombia.

With pole wires

New York Post

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