Update (1445 EST): The Venezuelan government and the United States President have made the first public confirmations. The statement from President Biden reads below:
“Today, ten Americans who have been detained in Venezuela have been released and are coming home, including all six wrongfully detained Americans. 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.
Additionally, a fugitive named Leonard Francis, who fled the United States before he could be sentenced for his lead role in a brazen bribery and corruption case – was arrested and returned to the United States from Venezuela so that he will face justice for crimes he committed against the U.S. Government and the American people.
We are ensuring that the Venezuelan regime meets its commitments. They have announced an electoral roadmap – agreed to by opposition parties – for competitive Presidential elections in 2024. This a positive and important step forward. And today, they are releasing twenty political prisoners, on top of five released previously. We will continue to monitor this closely and take appropriate action if needed. We stand in support of democracy in Venezuela and the aspirations of the Venezuelan people…”
The announcement from Venezuela reads below:
As this publication reported yesterday, an NGO by the name of Coalicion por los Derechos Humanos y la Democracia announced, then walked back claims that former US Army Special Forces members Airan Berry and Luke Denman had been released from detention in Venezuela. Another Latin-American publication named Monitoreamos picked up the story and said that the duo were not being released. United States National Security Council Spokesperson Kirby commented that “sometimes you have to make difficult decisions” in order to bring Americans home, but refused to comment further on the deal as of 1000 EST today.
However, this morning, both the Venezuelan and American governments confirmed to media that a prisoner exchange is underway in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for 10 U.S. nationals. These Americans include the former SOF duo, who will be exchanged for Colombia businessman Alex Saab.
Secretary of State Blinken told press that “we hope to have some good news later” as of 1200 EST. By 1330 EST, Bloomberg, Reuters, and several Latin-American publications announced the details of the release.
There is some flux with the number of persons to be released by the Venezuelan government, numbers range from 10 to 36 with reports of up to 12 American citizens. As of this publication, the most reliable number of Americans comes from Bloomberg, which claims 10. However, there are also reports of 13 Venezuelan political prisoners being released from Inof, Rodeo, La Yaguara, and Yare, with six of them being union leaders. The only release from the U.S. side is said to be Saab.
Saab was arrested, extradited and charged by the U.S. with eight counts of money laundering, accused of moving $350 million out of Venezuela into accounts controlled in the United States and other countries, as well as falsifying documents to obtain contracts for the construction of affordable housing.
During a fuel stop at Cape Verde on June 12th, 2020, Alex Saab was arrested while on his way from Venezuela to Iran. Saab’s extradition to the United States was approved by the Barlovento Appeals Tribunal, Cape Verde’s Supreme Court of Justice and its Constitutional Court.
This is a developing story. No official announcement has been made by the U.S. government as of this publication.