President Donald Trump said Venezuela will soon release an American hostage from Utah, who by tonight will be reunited with his family at the White House. The announcement marks the fourth hostage this month to be released from hostile regimes.
“Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela,” President Trump tweeted. “Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 P.M. The great people of Utah will be very happy!”
Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela. Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 P.M. The great people of Utah will be very happy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
Josh Holt, 26, will be released from a Venezuelan jail after being incarcerated for nearly two years. Following President Trump’s tweet, Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also released a statement on Twitter regarding Holt’s release.
“I’m pleased to announce that after two years of hard work, we’ve secured the release of Josh and Thamy Holt, who are now on their way home to the United States from Venezuela,” the statement said. “Over the last two years I’ve worked with two Presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contracts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela, and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton.”
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) May 26, 2018
Mr. Holt traveled to Venezuela in the summer of 2016 to marry Venezuelan native Thamara Candelo, who he met on a website for Mormon singles. The couple had planned to return to the U.S. together after getting married, but were jailed in El Helicolde, a Venezuelan government building meant to hold political dissidents.
Venezuelan authorities claim Mr. Holt and his wife were stockpiling weapons, and have suggested they were part of a U.S. plan to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.
However, not only do human rights groups call the charges outrageously overblown but witnesses say they saw Venezuelan police request a bribe, which the couple could not pay. Witnesses said authorities demanded $10,000 from Mr. Holt and Candelo, and they planted the weapons just before arresting them.
“I am very happy for Josh Holt & his family,” Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted. “He was an innocent America hostage in #Venezuela & his UNCONDITIONAL release was long overdue.”
I am very happy for Josh Holt & his family. He was an innocent America hostage in #Venezuela & his UNCONDITIONAL release was long overdue.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 26, 2018
Mr. Holt had made multiple videos begging the American people to demand the U.S. government help him. In his first video, he described what seemed like an assault on the prison to kidnap him, though he said they wanted to kill him.
“I need help. They have taken the entire prison where I am at,” he said in the first video. “The people have taken the entire prison. They’re outside, they’re trying to break in. They’re saying they want to kill me. They are saying that they want me as their guarantee.”
In the second video, he said he was “calling on the people of America.”
“I have been begging my government for two years,” he said of both administrations. “They say that they are doing things, but I’m still here and now my life is threatened.”