Trump to Freed Utah Man: 'You've Gone Through a Lot'

Joshua Holt and family meet with president after Holt's release from Venezuelan prison
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2018 5:37 AM CDT
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, shakes hands with Republican Senator Bob Corker during a meeting at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday May 25, 2018.   (Miraflores Presidential Press Office via AP)
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(Newser) – Joshua Holt, who traveled to Venezuela from Utah in 2016 to marry a Spanish-speaking Mormon woman but soon found himself jailed and later branded the CIA's top spy in Latin America, has been set free by the anti-American Maduro government. He says he was "overwhelmed with gratitude," reports the AP. Holt and his wife, Thamara Caleno, arrived Saturday evening at Dulles International Airport for a tearful reunion with his parents, Laurie and Jason Holt. A few hours later President Trump welcomed them to the White House. "Those two years, they were a very, very difficult two years," said an emotional Holt, sitting next to Trump in the Oval Office. "Not really the great vacation that I was looking for ... I'm just so grateful for what you guys have done." To Holt, Trump said: "You've gone through a lot. More than most people could endure."

Their release came a day after Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., held a surprise meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who the White House says runs a "dictatorship" and just won re-election in a "sham" vote. Trump, in a tweet, described Holt as a "hostage." Months of backchannel talks between a Corker aide and close allies of Maduro preceded their return. Yet Holt's release seemed unlikely even a week ago. Joining Trump in the Oval Office were Corker, Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, and Utah Rep. Mia Love. Holt and his wife were reunited at the Caracas airport with her daughter, and all three boarded a flight to Washington. "We are on our way home," Corker tweeted. When he departed Caracas, Holt told the AP the ordeal had left him "exhausted." The White House issued a statement Saturday saying the US' Venezuela policy was not changing, while thanking the government for releasing the Holts.

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