According to a report, Venezuela exchanged seven American prisoners being held in the South American country for two of President Nicholas Maduro’s nephews, who were being held in the United States for drug smuggling.
The prisoner swap, which involves five US oil executives who worked for Houston-based Citgo, is the largest of the Biden presidency and reportedly involved months of secret negotiations.
“We are relieved and delighted to welcome back to their families today seven Americans who have been wrongfully detained in Venezuela for too long,” said Joshua Geltzer, assistant homeland security adviser.
Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and Jose Pereira – were lured to Venezuela in 2017 to attend a meeting at the headquarters of the company’s parent company, state oil giant PDVSA, and were arrested on corruption charges. The executives were sentenced to between eight and 13 years in prison in 2020. Gustavo Cardenas, another member of the group of oil executives originally known as the Citgo Six, was released in March.
The arrests came amid a purge of Venezuela’s state oil company at a time when ties between the two countries were falling apart and demonstrations erupted as Venezuela’s economy spiraled out of control.
Also released was Matthew Heath, a former U.S. Marine corporal from Tennessee who was arrested at a roadblock in Venezuela in 2020 on what the State Department described as “suspicious” gun charges. Heath reportedly tried to commit suicide in his cell in June.
Another American, Osman Khan, who was arrested in January, was also released by the Maduro government. The US State Department said all US prisoners were unfairly held in Venezuela.
The United States freed Franqui Flores and his cousin Efrain Campo, nephews of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores. The cousins, both newborn drug smugglers, were arrested in Haiti in a 2015 Drug Enforcement Administration stabbing and taken to New York to face trial for attempting to smuggle 800 kilos of cocaine on a plane from Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport to ship where they planned to use their uncle’s private aircraft hangar. The two were sentenced a year later.
Both Flores and Campo were granted clemency by President Biden ahead of their release on Saturday.
Four other Americans are currently detained in Venezuela, including two former Green Berets involved in a 2019 attempt to oust Maduro and two other men arrested like Khan for allegedly entering the country illegally from neighboring Colombia were.
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https://nypost.com/2022/10/01/venezuela-swaps-7-us-prisoners-for-2-maduro-relatives/ Venezuela trades 7 US prisoners for 2 Maduro relatives