US releases Maduros wifes nephews in prisoner swap with Venezuela

US releases Maduro’s wife’s nephews in prisoner swap with Venezuela

US President Joe Biden has released two nephews of his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolás Maduro’s wife, who have been convicted of drug trafficking in the United States, in exchange for the release of seven Americans jailed in Venezuela, government sources said on Saturday.

Biden has decided to release Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and his cousin Efraín Antonio Campos Flores, nephews of Cilia Flores, Maduro’s wife an American official who asked that his identity be withheld, told reporters.

Biden made a “painful decision to offer something that Venezuelans have been actively seeking,” he said.

The Release of the Called “Narco Nephews”who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in New York in 2017 for attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States was “fundamental in securing the release” of the seven Americans, the official added.

“Today, after years of unjust imprisonment in Venezuela, we bring home Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Matthew Heath and Osman Khan,” Biden said in a statement.

The seven are “currently on their way home to their families in the United States,” a senior White House official said at a news conference.

The first five detainees named by the American president are former executives of the oil company Citgo four Venezuelanborn Americans and one Venezuelan permanent resident of the United States who have been accused of corruption in the Caribbean country and sentenced to eight to 13 years in prison.

A sixth Citgo executive, Gustavo Cárdenas, who was vice president of strategic relations at this US subsidiary of stateowned oil company PDVSA, was released in March.

Matthew Heath is an exMarine and has been in prison for two years on terrorism charges.

Osmar Khan is one of three Americans arrested at the Colombian border this year whose identity has not been revealed by government sources.

Shortly after Biden’s announcement, the Maduro government released a note.

“As a result of several talks held with United States government officials since March 5, two young Venezuelans have been unjustly detained in this country,” he said, without revealing their names.

It also confirmed the release of a “Group of Americans” detained in Venezuela “on humanitarian grounds”.

Since his arrest in 2017, the situation of American prisoners has seen ups and downs in CaracasWashington relations.

Venezuela accuses the United States of attacking basic facilities and wanting to oust Maduro, whom Washington does not recognize as president because it believes his reelection in 2018 was a fraud. On the contrary, he considers opposition leader Juan Guaidó to be the country’s interim president.

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