So that’s what Sen. Bob Corker was doing in Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro had held American Joshua Holt as a political prisoner for almost two years after traveling to Venezuela to marry a woman he met online. Holt is on his way back to the US today, along with his wife, thanks to a long negotiation for his release:
A Utah man has been released from a jail in Venezuela after spending nearly two years behind bars on weapons charges. …
Holt had gone to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry a woman he met online while looking for Spanish-speaking Mormons who could help him improve his Spanish. He was arrested on suspicion of weapons charges.
Hatch says Holt’s wife had also been released.
Donald Trump celebrated Holt’s release on Twitter and announced he would land at 7 pm ET today:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
Orrin Hatch also celebrated on Twitter with a longer statement that thanked Corker for his “pivotal efforts”:
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) May 26, 2018
Corker apparently traveled to meet Maduro to close out those negotiations. Marco Rubio must have been out of the loop, as he didn’t sound very happy yesterday about this photo op:
Any U.S. Senator can meet with whoever they want. But no matter how many senators dictator @NicolasMaduro gets to meet with him, U.S. sanctions will go away when Maduro leaves & democracy returns. pic.twitter.com/EcHZC9ELcN
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 25, 2018
Given the hardening positions between the US and Venezuela, it did seem strange to see the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shaking hands with the man who’s destroying Venezuela and driving its once-thriving population into starvation. And … it still seems a little odd, even with Holt on his way home. We know what Corker was working on, but just how did he accomplish his objective? What concessions did Corker give on behalf of the Trump administration, if any?
It seems difficult to believe Maduro would have given up Holt for no quid pro quo, especially after holding him for almost two years. On the other hand, it’s been difficult to know what Maduro thought he’d get out of holding Holt in the first place. Rubio offered two tweets this morning hailing Holt’s release, but pointedly didn’t mention Corker in either one. In his first, Rubio emphasized that Holt’s release should have been “unconditional”:
I am very happy for Josh Holt & his family. He was an innocent America hostage in #Venezuela & his UNCONDITIONAL release was long overdue.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 26, 2018
Does that mean it wasn’t unconditional, or that it was? Or is it just that Rubio wasn’t briefed yet on the details?
It’s certainly good to hear that Holt and his wife will shortly be in the US, and well worth celebrating. Perhaps we’ll find out more in the next few days about just how unconditional that release was. In the meantime, Jazz notes that Trump has more Americans to free, this time from an ostensible ally:
Credit where due. Now tell us about Andrew Brunson in Turkey. https://t.co/hvdrct61qj
— Jazz Shaw (@JazzShaw) May 26, 2018