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Venezuela releases 2 Americans from prison after Biden team met with Maduro

President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference at Miraflores Government Palace on March 12, 2020 in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photo by Carolina Cabral/Getty Images/TNS)

Venezuela released two Americans from detention Tuesday in a gesture of goodwill to the United States after the first diplomatic talks between the two countries in at least three years.

One of them was part of a group of six oil executives with Citgo, a U.S. refining company owned by Venezuela’s state oil firm, who were arrested during a business trip to Caracas in 2017, two sources in Venezuela told the Miami Herald.

The release came on the same day President Joe Biden said the United States would not be importing oil from Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine. U.S. officials are exploring whether to turn to Venezuela as a potential alternative supplier as gasoline prices soar.

U.S. officials traveled to Caracas last weekend and met with President Nicolás Maduro to discuss the potential easing of U.S. oil sanctions on Venezuela, among other issues. The United States severed diplomatic ties with the Maduro government in 2019 and recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

A high-ranking member of Guaidó’s team had said earlier this week that U.S. officials gave them a description of the meeting after it had concluded.

Maduro demanded an end to all sanctions and investigations directed at his family, and that he be recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate ruler until 2024, the Guaidó official said.

U.S. officials would not comment on the release of the Americans.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki had said Monday that discussions on the detention of U.S. citizens and on sanctions relief were on “different tracks.”

“They are different channels,” Psaki said. “They’re all a part of the conversation with Venezuela writ large, but not at the same time.”

Roger Carstens, U.S. special envoy for hostage affairs, joined the U.S. delegation to Caracas with other administration officials over the weekend.

A U.S. official had said the delegation pushed for the release of all Americans held in Venezuelan custody, including members of the Citgo 6 and Matthew Heath, a retired U.S. Marine.


© 2022 Miami Herald
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