On Monday, a Gulfstream III operated by Phoenix Air, which is frequently chartered by the United States government and CIA, landed in Caracas, Venezuela, from San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the time, there were no official statements about its purpose, however, the aircraft was previously used to send American hostage affairs officials to the Venezuelan capital to negotiate the release of jailed Americans in the country.
Hace 20 minutos llego el Phoenix Air (CIA) #N713PA, mejor conocido cómo Ebola Jet, el favorito de los negociadores de Biden con el régimen de Maduro. También usado para extradiciónes e intercambios de prisioneros. En un rato seguro va a Puerto Rico a esperar señales. pic.twitter.com/7ZUeU3sZyf
— ??????? (@Arr3ch0) June 19, 2023
The United States State Department confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens arrived in Caracas for “discussions about the welfare and safety of US nationals wrongfully detained in Venezuela,” adding that “US government officials were able to conduct welfare visits with detained US nationals while in Caracas.”
There are currently four known American citizens to be jailed in Venezuela, which include Eyvin Hernandez, Jerrel Kenemore, Luke Denman, Airan Berry.
Hernandez, a Salvadoran American lawyer from California, was vacationing in Colombia when he accompanied a local friend to the Norte de Santander border region to get her passport stamped in March, 2022. While there, the two were arrested by Venezuelan authorities and accused of entering the country illegally, where they were also charged with criminal association and conspiracy, which carries a 16 year prison sentence.
Jerrel Kenemore, a computer programer from Texas who was working remotely in Colombia, was also arrested by authorities in March, 2022, upon entering the country with his Venezuelan girlfriend. Like Hernandez, he was charged with illegally entering the country, criminal association and conspiracy.
Both men are considered wrongfully detained by the United States.
Luke Denman and Airan Berry, on the other hand, were arrested by Venezuelan forces during “Operation Gideon,” a failed plot which sought to capture President Nicolás Maduro, collect a $15 million bounty placed on him by the United States, and overthrow the government in May 2020. Denman and Berry, both former Green Berets who worked for the American private military company Silvercorp USA, along with dozens of Venezuelan dissidents, attempted to carry out a boat raid against the port city of Macuto. Venezuelan forces, who were tipped off about the plot, immediately engaged the landing party, resulting in several deaths and the eventual capture of the remaining mercenaries. Denman and Berry were sentenced to 20 years each for terrorism.
Neither Denman or Berry are considered wrongfully detained, so it remains unclear if the United States is negotiating their release.
This comes as nine American citizens were released by Venezuela in October 2022, which include Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and Jose Pereira, Osman Khan, and Matthew Heath. They were exchanged for convicted Venezuelan drug smugglers Franqui Flores and Efrain Campo, who are nephews to Mauro’s wife.