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After a special delegation sent by President Joe Biden held meetings in Caracas with Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan tyranny released two American citizens who were detained for political reasons.
As confirmed by a Venezuelan NGO closely following the case, those released are Gustavo Cardenas, an executive of Citgo, the American subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, who had been detained since 2017, and Jorge Alberto Fernandez, a Cuban-American who was detained in February 2021 and accused of terrorism for carrying a drone when entering Venezuela as a tourist. Both citizens are in the United States.
President Joe Biden issued a statement Tuesday night celebrating that both Americans “who were unjustly held” have returned to the United States and are reunited with their families. “These men are fathers who lost precious time with their children and everyone they love, and their families have suffered every day of their absence,” the president said in his text.
Both releases came after the Biden administration sent a special delegation to initiate a round of negotiations with dictator Nicolás Maduro and his vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, both fugitives from American justice, with the aim of discussing a possible lifting of sanctions in exchange for Venezuela’s break with Vladimir Putin, its main ally.
Biden thanked in his statement Roger Carstens, White House Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who was part of the delegation sent to negotiate with Maduro.
The director of the Venezuelan NGO Coalition for Human Rights and Democracy, Ana Leonor Acosta, said that the American officials in the delegation toured several detention centers interviewing American prisoners.
“We understand that, in the framework of the negotiations that are being carried out between both countries, the issue of the release of political prisoners is being raised,” Acosta said in a video published on Monday, in which she also indicated that the detainees were given medical examinations.
Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, confirmed on Monday that the meeting with Maduro had taken place and said that one of the reasons, in addition to “energy security issues,” was to verify the health status of Americans detained by the Venezuelan regime.
As reported by the New York Times, Maduro’s dictatorship wants to resume sales of Venezuelan crude oil to the United States to take advantage of the rise in oil prices and replace the income from the commercial channels it had built with Russia, after this country was left out of the SWIFT international financial system following its violent invasion against Ukraine.
Regarding the release of both citizens, Senator Marco Rubio said that Maduro is using the American prisoners as trade currency to take advantage of president Biden’s “weakness.”
“Maduro took American hostages to use as a chit when the time came to take advantage of a weak President,” Florida senator tweeted. “He will gladly trade them & agree to negotiations with the opposition that will lead to nothing to get his hands of millions of $ in sanctions relief.”