USA sanctions remain despite Mormon missionary release from Venezuela jail

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His family says Holt was framed on the weapons charges and the United States accused Caracas of using him as a bargaining chip in sanctions talks.

After a May 20 election which Washington rejected as a "sham", US President Donald Trump tightened pre-existing sanctions against Maduro's regime.

Joshua Holt, who was "unjustly detained" in Venezuela for two years, arrived to a warm welcome in his home state of Utah Monday night after meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. "Not really the great vacation that I was looking for ..."

The Holts were reunited with their family in a room at Dulles International Airport at about 7:10 p.m., according to Hatch's office, which posted a video of the gathering on Twitter. "You've gone through a lot - more than most people could endure".

Their release came one day after Sen. Maduro handed over Holt and his wife, Thamara Caleno, to Corker in what his government said was a goodwill gesture to promote dialogue and mutual respect between the two antagonistic governments. Holt and his wife were jailed almost two years on weapons charges that US officials considered bogus.

Bob Corker, the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had popped up unexpectedly in Caracas to push for Holt's freedom.

A week ago the chances of Holt's long ordeal ending any time soon looked slim.

Joining Trump in the Oval Officer were Corker, Utah Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Rep. Mia Love of Utah. The lawmakers thanked Trump for his support.

The U.S. "offered nothing" to Venezuelan leadership in exchange for the release of Holt, two White House National Security Council officials told CNN.

"We are on our way home", Mr Corker tweeted.

The president also mentioned other Americans who are being held in other foreign countries and shared his confidence that his administration will be able to secure the releases of others, as well.

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Instead, the couple was arrested at her family's government housing complex on the outskirts of Caracas.

Gonzalo Himiob, a lawyer with Venezuelan rights group Penal Forum, said Holt was being transferred from jail to the USA embassy in Caracas, and would leave for the United States on Saturday afternoon.

Holt and his wife were being held at a prison in Caracas known as the Helicoide where the Sebin keeps political prisoners.

Mr Holt was jailed and branded the CIA's top spy in Latin America after travelling to Venezuela from Utah in 2016 to marry Spanish-speaking Mormon Thamara Caleno in the country. And Venezuela's government all along was claiming that he was this really unsafe USA spy.

The Salt Lake City parents had been through the emotional rollercoaster of believing their son would be released only to watch mediation efforts unravel at the last minute on at least three occasions.

He apparently was referring to USA sanctions, which Washington has tightened since Maduro was reelected on May 20 in elections that the United States rejected as a "sham".

The Trump administration has threatened crippling oil sanctions on Venezuela for Maduro's decision to go forward with the presidential election last week.

Holding McCarry's hand throughout the delicate talks was "Dracula" - Rafael Lacava, the governor of central Carabobo state and a trusted ally of Maduro who also was close to the Boston Group members.

Corker met with Maduro on Friday amid speculation Holt's imprisonment was on the agenda.

Now, Laurie Holt said she can't wait to sit down with her son. He had lost a considerable amount of weight and was suffering from kidney stones and painful tooth decay, they said. "In most cases, they're Americans, but we can try and help other countries, too, where there's injustice", the President said. Holt's not exactly, you know, a hardened criminal type. We ask that you allow us to meet with our son and his wife before giving any interviews and statements.

"We're just so grateful", Derek said.

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