Seven Americans detained on Venezuelan soil were freed Saturday in exchange for two nephews of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro’s wife, who will be returning home after spending roughly seven years imprisoned in the U.S. on drug smuggling convictions.
The freed Americans include five employees of the oil and gas company CITGO who spent five years imprisoned in the country, as well as two others-U.S. Marine corporal Matthew Heath, arrested in 2020, and Osman Khan, a man from Florida, who was captured as recently as January. The CITGO employees-Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and Jose Pereira-were all invited to the Latin American country in 2017 to attend a meeting hosted by CITGO’s parent company, Venezuelan state-operated oil company PDVSA, but were captured and detained upon arrival.
“We are relieved and gratified to be welcoming back to their families today seven Americans who had been wrongfully detained for too long in Venezuela,” Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Joshua Geltzer said to the Associated Press.
The swap marks the largest exchange of imprisoned civilians thus far made by the Biden administration, as the White House faces mounting pressure to bring roughly 60 internationally detained Americans back home.
2022 The Daily Beast Company LLC
This story was originally published October 1, 2022 3:40 PM.