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Venezuela releases 10 Americans in prisoner swap with US

The released prisoners include Joseph Cristella, Eyvin Hernandez, Jerrel Kenemore and Savoi Wright.
Venezuela releases 10 Americans in prisoner swap with US
Posted at 8:36 AM, Dec 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-20 14:57:35-05

President Joe Biden revealed on Wednesday that the U.S. secured the release of 10 Americans who were detained in Venezuela. 

"These individuals have lost far too much precious time with their loved ones, and their families have suffered every day in their absence. I am grateful that their ordeal is finally over, and that these families are being made whole once more," President Biden said in a statement. 

The released prisoners include Joseph Cristella, Eyvin Hernandez, Jerrel Kenemore, and Savoi Wright. 

"These past few months have been some of the most difficult of our lives, and we are relieved that this ordeal has ended," Wright's family said in a statement. "We are grateful to the U.S. government for bringing Savoi home so quickly."

President Biden said the deal to secure the release of the 10 Americans included the arrest and return of Leonard Francis. He fled the U.S. before he could be sentenced for his role in a corruption case involving a conspiracy to bribe Navy officials and other employees. 

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In exchange for the detained Americans and Francis, President Biden granted clemency to Alex Saab. He is a confidant of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who was arrested for money laundering in 2020. Venezuela also agreed to free 20 political prisoners and suspend arrest warrants for three others as part of the deal. President Biden said the deal with Venezuela included a roadmap for "competitive" presidential elections in 2024. "We will continue to monitor this closely and take appropriate action if needed," President Biden said. "We stand in support of democracy in Venezuela and the aspirations of the Venezuelan people."

Maduro, who has been in office since 2013, is running for president again in 2024. His administration has been criticized for overseeing a country that is rife with crime and poverty. 


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