As Venezuela gears up for its presidential election Sunday, the economic and social turmoil there continues. But for one American, trapped in the Helicoide prison in Caracas, the stakes are especially high. NPR and CNN report on the plight of Utah's Joshua Holt, a Mormon missionary jailed there in 2016 with his wife, Thamara Candelo, a Venezuelan Mormon Holt met online before heading to Venezuela to marry her. They were waiting on paperwork for Candelo so they could move back to the US, along with her two young daughters, when they were detained in an anti-gang raid in June 2016 and hit with weapons charges. Now, prisoners are rioting in the Helicoide, and Holt, 26, is using social media to plea for help. "The prison where I am at has fallen the guards are here and people are trying to break in my room and kill me. WHAT DO WE DO?" he posted on Facebook Wednesday.
Holt's trial on the weapons charges was set to start Tuesday, but he and his wife were never brought to the courthouse, per the AP. "They want to kill me and paint the walls with my blood," he added in another post, begging the US to help him and noting Venezuela's intelligence agency said it won't let him go "as long as my government continues attacking this government." He also uploaded two short video clips making similar pleas, saying, "I've been begging my government for two years. They say they're doing things but I'm still here." On Thursday, the US Embassy in Venezuela tweeted that it's concerned about the situation at the Helicoide and that Holt and other Americans there are in peril. "The Venezuelan government is directly responsible for its security and we will hold it responsible if something happens to them," the embassy added. (The "illegal" closing of a Kellogg factory there.)