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Venezuela frees seven Americans, US frees two Venezuelans in prisoner swap – News

US President Joe Biden announced on Saturday that Venezuela had released seven Americans who had been “unreasonably” detained.

“Today, after years of unjust detention in Venezuela, we bring home Jorge Toledo, Domeu Waddell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Matthew Heath and Osman Khan,” Joe Biden said in a statement.

The seven are “currently on their way home to their families in the United States,” a senior White House official told a news conference.

The first five inmates named by the U.S. president are former directors of the Citco oil company — four Americans born in Venezuela and a Venezuelan permanent resident in the U.S. — who were sentenced to eight to 13 years in prison on corruption charges in the Caribbean nation. .

A sixth CITCO boss, Gustavo Cardenas, was released in March as vice president in charge of strategic relations at the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela’s state oil company PTVSA.

Matthew Heath is a former Marine who was arrested two years ago and prosecuted for “terrorism.”

Osman Khan is one of three Americans detained at the Colombian border this year, whose identities have not been released by government sources.

After Biden’s announcement, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro issued a statement.

“As a result of several conversations held since March 5 with representatives of the United States government, two young Venezuelans have been unjustly imprisoned in that country,” he said, without disclosing their names.

He also confirmed the release of a “group of Americans” held in Venezuela for “humanitarian reasons”.

Since his arrest in 2017, the plight of the American prisoner has been affected by ups and downs in relations between Caracas and Washington.

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Caracas accuses the US of wanting to oust Nicolás Maduro by attacking the base, because Washington considers his re-election in 2018 fraudulent. Instead, it considers opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

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© Agence France-Presse