Venezuela frees two US prisoners

US President Joe Biden said two US citizens “wrongly arrested” by the Venezuelan government had been released, days after a delegation of senior American officials visited the South American country to improve relations between the two countries.

In a statement posted on the White House website, Biden welcomed Gustavo Cardenas and Jorge Fernandez back to their homeland on Tuesday (8/3) following their release.

The president said Cardenas, an executive of a US branch of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, was arrested in 2017. Fernandez was arrested last year on unclear charges.

Biden thanked Roger Carstens, America’s special envoy for hostage affairs, and “the entire diplomatic team for their tireless efforts to free and reunite (the two hostages) with their families.”

The release comes after Carstens, together with the Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere of the National Security Council, Juan Gonzales, and the US Ambassador to Venezuela James Story held talks on Saturday (5/3) with members of President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

The meeting was reportedly designed to track the possible removal of American sanctions against the oil-producing nation.

The talks were the highest-level meeting between American officials and the Maduro administration since 2019 when former president Trump’s administration severed diplomatic ties with Venezuela. [jm/em]