A Utah man freed this weekend after being held in a Venezuelan jail for almost two years is scheduled to return to Salt Lake City on Monday night after getting medical care and visiting President Donald Trump in Washington. The Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro two days after the embattled socialist leader kicked out the top US diplomat in the country.
"Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela", President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday morning. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said on Twitter Saturday, May 26, 2018, that Joshua Holt had been released.
The president met with Josh Holt Saturday at the White House, just moments after he touched down on USA soil with his wife.
Until Trump's tweet on Saturday, the USA had stopped short of publicly calling Holt a "hostage".
A White House spokesperson thanked the Maduro "regime" for releasing the "unjustly detained" Holt from detention, but said USA foreign policy towards the country would not change.
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Despite the expulsion of the American diplomats, the Venezuelan government has been seeking ways to avoid the threat of harsh USA oil sanctions that could further cripple the country's ailing economy.
"I just want to welcome you to the Oval Office, welcome you to the White House", Trump said.
Josh Holt, now 26, went to Venezuela to marry Thamara Caleno Candelo, now Thamy Holt, after meeting her online. "2207520000.1527388943./1680746842045054/?type=3&theater">Facebook page, he said the reunion came "after two years of hard work".
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Saturday, "U.S. policy toward Venezuela remains unchanged". Saturday night's Oval Office celebration follows Trump's greeting at Joint Base Andrews earlier this month of three Americans released by North Korea in the lead-up to a planned summit with Trump.
"Holt's continued imprisonment was a thorn in the side", he said.
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He recently appeared in a secretly shot video in which he begged for help from the USA government, and claimed his life was being threatened.
Josh Holt's parents praised Trump, other administration officials and lawmakers involved in securing his and his wife's release. "I need your help to get me out of this place", Holt said in the video.
"We're grateful to all who participated in this miracle", Holt's family said in a statement. "They want to kill me and paint the walls with my blood".
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. The couple has denied the charge of concealing weapons.
Sunday afternoon, dozens of community members met up with friends and family of Josh Holt at Riverton City Park to tie neon green ribbons along 12600 South to welcome him home.
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