USA missionary freed from Venezuela jail welcomed home by Trump

Man returns home after years-long imprisonment in Venezuela

"We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle".

Holt, a 26-year-old Utahn, had traveled to Venezuela in 2016 to marry a woman he had met online.

The Holts were arrested by Venezuelan authorities in 2016 for supposedly keeping weapons in her home, a claim that Josh Holt has denied. Holt's mother also thanked Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for releasing her son.

The U.S. government at first avoided ratcheting up public pressure on Venezuela amid already strained relations between the two countries, but eventually raised Holt's case to the highest levels of the Venezuela government.

The family of a Utah man and his wife, who have been in a Venezuelan prison for two years is elated at the news of their release.

Holt said he was overwhelmed with gratitude for the support he received from the U.S. government while behind bars.

He said it was part of "efforts to maintain a respectful dialogue, diplomatic relations of respect, that permit gates to be opened to avoid the aggressions to which (Venezuela) has been subjected".

Joshua Holt: "I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude for you guys, for everything that you've done".

The president also mentioned other Americans who are being held in other foreign countries and shared his confidence that his administration will be able to secure the releases of others, as well.

"We're doing the things we can with the tools we can use to encourage the material regime to at least in this one instance do something right and let this fellow come back", Pompeo said at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this week.

Trump told Holt. "But we've had 17 [prisoners] released", during the Trump administration, the president said.

The Republican senator from Tennessee says much of the credit for Holt's release goes to his staffer Caleb McCarry for his dogged determination.

Holt, 26, of Utah thanked the president and all the government officials who worked to get him out. Authorities accused him of stockpiling an assault rifle and grenades, and suggested that his case was linked to other unspecified US attempts to undermine Maduro's rule amid deep economic and political turbulence.

In a statement, he added that "the United States stands steadfast in support of the Venezuelan people and their efforts to return to democracy". Relations between the USA and Venezuela have been strained recently, particularly over the election which last week returned Maduro to power.

In a harrowing recent Facebook post, Holt pleaded for help and for his life, from a Caracas jail. Maduro responded by expelling the U.S. Embassy's charge d'affaires and his deputy from Venezuela.

Last week, Maduro won a second term as president, despite the economic catastrophe he has presided over, in a vote that was labeled rigged by independent observers.



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