Venezuela Has Held an American Citizen for More than 17 Months


by Sharon Rondeau

Joshua Holt from Facebook page of his mother, Laurie Moon Holt

(Dec. 14, 2017) — A press release from the U.S. State Department on Thursday called upon the Venezuelan government to release American citizen and Utahn Joshua Holt from the detention he has suffered for nearly 18 months.

On Tuesday, Holt and his wife were formally charged with illegal weapons possession and compelled to face trial in a country which has become increasingly hostile to the U.S. over the last year.

In late July, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on the regime of Nicolas Maduro and condemned its elections as fraudulent.

In June of last year, Holt, a Mormon missionary, married Venezuelan Thamara Candelo, who he had met online, shortly after which both were charged with “illegal possession of weapons,” among other allegations.

The State Department press release states that “On December 12, U.S. citizen Joshua Holt was charged after more than 17 months of detention. U.S. Embassy personnel were not permitted to observe Mr. Holt’s court hearing on December 12.”

During Maduro’s reign, Venezuela has been plagued with food shortages, a sinking economy and deteriorating social structure.  Many Venezuelans have sought refuge from the chaos in Peru.

Candelo’s mother told NPR in March that she was present when Venezuelan government agents burst into her daughter’s apartment, where the family was staying after the wedding, and that the firearms found there were planted.

Holt had hoped to return to the U.S. with his bride and her two daughters and were awaiting an appointment to make arrangements for them to obtain visas when they were arrested.

In July, Holt’s mother reported that her son had fallen out of a bunk bed while in detention and “could have a concussion.”  A BBC report on Wednesday stated that Holt recorded a message in which he said he is experiencing dizziness, stomach pain and vomiting. He is said to desperately need hospitalization.

On November 17, 2017, Breitbart reported that Holt has been “tortured” while in prison and has lost 50 pounds.

The State Department additionally wrote in Thursday’s statement:

The United States remains extremely concerned for Mr. Holt’s health and welfare, which continues to deteriorate under the custody of SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence agency. The Embassy has repeatedly requested consular access pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Venezuela is legally obligated in accordance with the Convention to permit U.S. consular officers to visit U.S. citizens detained there. Too often, access is only belatedly granted, only to be canceled, withdrawn, or simply ignored, as was the case on December 12. We call on the Venezuelan government to grant immediate consular access to Mr. Holt. We remind the Venezuelan government that pursuant to its international obligations, Venezuela must grant Mr. Holt fair trial guarantees. His life should not be jeopardized under SEBIN’s custody. Therefore we renew our call for Mr. Holt’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

SEBIN is Venezuela’s national intelligence service launched on June 2, 2010 under the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

U.S. Rep. Mia Love and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah have been attempting to convince Venezuelan authorities through various channels to release Holt given his reported deteriorating medical situation.  In a Facebook post on April 27, Hatch reported that Holt’s mother, Laurie Holt, met with him in his Washington office along with U.S. State Department Under Secretary Thomas Shannon, to discuss possible ways in which her son’s freedom could be secured.


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