A Utah man incarcerated in a Venezuelan jail since 2016 is set to be released, U.S. officials said today. Joshua Holt, 26, was jailed in Venezuela since raveling there in the summer of 2016 to marry Thamara Candelo, whom he met online. The two planned to return to the U.S. after getting married, but were jailed in El Hilcolde on what human-rights groups said were largely trumped-up charges.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s office said in a statement Holt and his wife were on their way back to the U.S. “Over the last two years I’ve worked with two Presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contracts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela, and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton,” the statement said.
Hatch’s office also thanked Tennessee Senator Bob Corker for his “pivotal efforts” and the “Senate Foreign Relations Committee for their help in this effort.”
“I want to particularly thank Caleb McCarry, whose expertise and effort in Venezuela on my behalf has been instrumental in bringing Josh home,” the statement concluded.
President Donald J. Trump took to Twitter early this morning. “Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela. Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 p.m. The great people of Utah will be very happy!” he tweeted.
Venezuelan authorities claim Holt and his wife were stockpiling weapons, and have suggested they were part of a U.S. plan to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. But witnesses say they saw Venezuelan police, accused of demanding $10,000 from Holt and Candelo, plant weapons just before arresting the couple – and announcing the discovery of the arms.
Joshua’s mother, Laurie Holt, told Fox News in February her son’s ordeal has taken an emotional and physical toll on her. A week ago, the 7-year-old daughter of Candelo from a previous marriage arrived in the United States on a humanitarian visa to live with Joshua Holt’s parents in Utah.
Earlier this month, Holt made pleas on Facebook claiming the prison he was incarcerated in has been taken over by people trying to kill him. “I need help. They have taken the entire prison where I am at,” he can be heard saying in the first video. “The people have taken the entire prison. They’re outside, they’re trying to break in. They’re saying they want to kill me. They are saying that they want me as their guarantee.”
In the second video, Holt called on the people of America to get him out. “I have been begging my government for two years. They say that they are doing things, but I’m still here and now my life is threatened.”
Holt’s family released a statement expressing their gratitude. “We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish. We ask that you allow us to meet with our son and his wife before giving any interviews and statements. We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle,” the statement read.