U.S. not negotiating new Venezuela prisoner swap regardless of enchantment, say U.S. officers By Reuters
By Jonathan Landay and Vivian Sequera
WASHINGTON/CARACAS (Reuters) – The USA shouldn’t be discussing a prisoner trade as described in a letter and video enchantment addressed to President Joe Biden by an American detained in Venezuela, in accordance with two U.S. officers.
Eyvin Hernandez was “fairly probably coerced” into interesting to Biden to swap him and 7 different U.S. detainees for Alex Saab, a Colombian-born businessman dealing with trial in Miami, mentioned one of many U.S. officers, talking on situation of anonymity.
Hernandez, a 35-year-old Los Angeles public defender, despatched the letter and video to Biden in February.
“I am making this enchantment to you on behalf of myself, my household, my mates, and all the opposite U.S. Individuals which can be right here, unlawfully detained in Venezuela,” Hernandez mentioned within the video, which was reviewed by Reuters and is being reported for the primary time. “We all know that we are going to be launched in the event you make a commerce for Alex Saab for all of us.”
His letter, additionally reviewed by Reuters, was beforehand reported by Newsweek.
The Venezuelan Ministry of Info didn’t reply to questions on whether or not a prisoner swap was being thought-about, or whether or not Hernandez was coerced into making his enchantment.
Within the video, Hernandez says swapping him and the opposite detainees for Saab, a long-time ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, can be the “solely manner” they might be freed.
Saab is charged with siphoning round $350 million out of Venezuela via the U.S. in a bribery scheme linked to Venezuela’s state-controlled trade price. He denies the allegation. No date has been set for his trial.
Declining to touch upon the specifics of any ongoing case, a U.S. State Division spokesperson appeared to point that talks on a prisoner swap involving Saab is likely to be attainable after his trial ran its course.
The spokesperson cautioned in opposition to any reporting that instructed a deal had been reached to safe the discharge of an American wrongfully detained in Venezuela, “or that there are lively conversations about releasing a serious U.S. felony suspect who hasn’t even gone to trial.”
The primary U.S. official additionally mentioned no negotiations had been underway.
Hernandez’ brother, Henry Martinez, informed Reuters by WhatsApp from Los Angeles that the household had obtained no official data from U.S. officers about any attainable trade.
FOCUS ON FREEING AMERICANS
Biden says releasing Individuals wrongfully detained abroad is a prime precedence. He has presided over various swaps, notably one in December wherein basketball star Brittney Griner was launched by Moscow in trade for convicted Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout.
Within the video, Hernandez was unshaven. He appeared well-fed, sitting in a inexperienced sweatshirt over a blue shirt and pants. The hand-written letter lay on a desk earlier than him.
Reuters was unable to learn the way the video and letter had been conveyed to the White Home. That Hernadez was allowed to make them indicated Venezuelan authorities accredited.
In his letter, Hernandez wrote that his enchantment for was backed by three different U.S. detainees: Jerrel Kenemore, Jason Saad and Joseph Cristella.
The Biden administration in October declared Hernandez wrongfully detained. He and Kenemore, 53, had been arrested in March 2022 on prices of illegally coming into Venezuela from Colombia.
Caracas in October launched seven Individuals in trade for 2 of Maduro’s family members convicted on drug trafficking prices in america, amid talks between U.S. and Venezuelan officers that started in March 2022.
The talks marked a shift in U.S. coverage from the Trump administration’s “most strain” marketing campaign of sanctions and different measures aimed toward forcing Maduro from energy following 2018 elections extensively deemed fraudulent.
Venezuela has the world’s largest confirmed oil reserves. The Biden administration has been in search of various oil sources due to disruptions associated to the conflict in Ukraine.
Washington says Maduro’s authorities should take concrete steps towards free elections and launch detained politicians earlier than it considers any easing of sanctions.