A press statement from the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, thanking Qatar for its assistance in negotiations welcomed the release of 10 U.S. citizens and 20 opposition-linked Venezuelan citizens. The department labeled six of the U.S. citizens as wrongfully detained and regarded the formerly detained Venezuelan citizens as political prisoners.
“The United States welcomes the release today of all six wrongfully detained U.S. nationals from Venezuela – Joseph Cristella, Eyvin Hernandez, Jerrel Kenemore, Savoi Wright, and two individuals who wish to remain private – as well as the release of four additional U.S. nationals,” read the statement from Sec. Blinken. “They have all safely departed Venezuela and will soon be reunited with their families and other loved ones. I want to thank the government of Qatar for its work helping secure their release.”
In return, The United States released Alex Saab, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Saab was granted clemency by President Joe Biden and was sent back to Venezuela, according to reports. Saab was accused of stealing $350 million from Venezuela via the U.S. in a scheme that involved bribing Venezuelan government officials. Saab denies the charges.
“The safety and security of Americans worldwide is my highest priority as Secretary,” Sec. Blinken’s statement continued. “Since President Biden took office, we have secured the release of more than forty wrongfully detained Americans, and we will continue to press for the release of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained in other countries around the world.”
The prisoner releases are part of an agreement to continue with relief from sanctions imposed by the United States on Venezuela. The country has suffered greatly as a result of the unilateral blockade of goods in the country. President Maduro has also assured the U.S. that the country will reinstate opposition candidates and impose more democratic elections.
“We also welcome the release today of twenty Venezuelan political prisoners and the November 30 announcement of a pathway for the reinstatement of all Venezuelan political candidates,” Sec. Blinken said via the statement. “These actions represent important and concrete steps toward the implementation of the electoral roadmap agreement signed by representatives of Maduro and of the Unitary Platform in Barbados in October.
“The United States supports the implementation of the electoral roadmap agreement for Venezuelan elections in 2024 and stands with the Venezuelan people who want a democratic future,” Sec. Blinken’s statement concludes.
Should Venezuela fail to meet U.S. demands, sanctions are expected to be reimposed immediately.
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