By Breaking Belize News Staff: The United States has freed two of President Nicolas Maduro’s nephews jailed on drug convictions in exchange for Venezuela freeing seven Americans including five oil executives on Saturday, officials from both countries confirmed as reported by Reuters.
The swap included executives of Citgo Petroleum, held in Venezuela for years, along with US Marine veteran Mathew Heath and another US citizen named Osman Khan. They were exchanged for two of Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were arrested in 2015.
US President Joe Biden said the “wrongfully detained” Americans would soon be reunited with their families, in a statement.
The prisoner transfer reportedly took place in an undisclosed airport in an unspecified third-party country following months of secretive talks with Maduro’s socialist government, which remains under strict US sanctions.
Maduro’s government said in a statement that talks began in March leading to the two young Venezuelans who were “unjustly” held in the US being freed as well as a group of US citizens who were released for “humanitarian reasons”.
Experts believe the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent fuel shortages led to the talks between the US and Venezuela, which sits on one of the world’s largest oil reserves, though US policy on Venezuela has not officially changed.