Following a high-level US delegation’s visit to Caracas on Tuesday, Venezuela released two imprisoned American nationals in an apparent goodwill gesture for the Biden administration.
Gustavo Cardenas, one of six Citgo oil executives detained in 2017 and convicted on accusations the US government claims were manufactured, was one of the freed convicts. The other was Jorge Alberto Fernandez, a Cuban-American imprisoned on various charges.
President Joe Biden stated that they will be bringing home two Americans who were wrongfully jailed in Venezuela. He added that they will finally be able to hug and spend time with their families again.
The US delegation’s weekend visit focused not just on the fate of detained Americans, but also on the potential of lifting US oil sanctions against the OPEC member in order to fill a supply shortfall if Biden bans Russian oil imports in reaction to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which he did on Tuesday. In South America, Venezuela is Russia’s closest friend.
At least nine men have been sought by Washington, including the Citgo 6, two former Green Berets, and a former U.S. Marine. Marine.
The release of the two could help to create a more friendly tone for discussions between the US and Venezuela, which have had a tense relationship under consecutive US administrations.
On Sunday, the highest-ranking US delegation to visit Venezuela in recent years met with the captives in a Venezuelan prison. Roger Carstens, the United States’ captive envoy, was among the delegation, and he was thought to have stayed behind to complete the release.
Tuesday’s announcement came after Biden administration officials met with socialist President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday to discuss measures to mitigate the impact of rising U.S. gasoline prices, which have been fueled by Western efforts to penalize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Biden ratcheted up the pressure on Moscow by announcing a US ban on Russian oil and other energy imports. The restriction could result in higher gas prices for American consumers, increasing inflationary pressures.
On Capitol Hill, the Biden administration was chastised for meeting with Maduro, who is sanctioned by the US for human rights violations and political persecution.
Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has encouraged the Trump administration not to pursue a deal with Venezuela.