Maduro’s wife’s nephews below
US and Venezuela exchange prisoners
Relations between the two countries have been strained for a long time. Now, however, the US and Venezuela are exchanging captured citizens. Seven Americans are released, as well as two Venezuelans – said to be Maduro’s nephews.
Seven US citizens were released in exchange for two Venezuelans in a US-Venezuela prisoner swap. Seven American citizens will now be “taken home after years of unlawful detention,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement from the White House in Washington on Saturday (local time). Washington and Caracas announced the exchange in two near-simultaneous statements.
Five of the seven released U.S. citizens were managers of the oil company Citgo. They were arrested in 2017 during a business trip to the South American country and charged with corruption. Two other US citizens were arrested separately.
Caracas did not identify those released, but a senior US official identified them as nephews of President Nicolas Maduro’s wife. Both men were arrested in Haiti and then taken to New York, where they were sentenced to 18 years in prison on drug charges.
The US wants to ease sanctions
The release of the two men, sometimes referred to as “narco sons” because of their relationship with Nicolas Maduro’s wife, was “vital” to the Americans’ release, a US official told reporters.
Relations between the two countries have been strained for years. The US is among about 60 countries that have refused to recognize Maduro as the legitimately elected president after a disputed 2018 election.
Recently, however, diplomatic efforts have increased behind the scenes with the Latin American country – also due to pressure on global energy supplies due to Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. With the energy crisis in mind, Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolás Maduro has brought his country into the game as a global supplier of oil and gas.
Oil is an extremely important source of income for Venezuela. The US hit the country with a series of sanctions after Maduro’s re-election in 2018. A punitive measure imposed in 2019 bans Venezuela from trading oil on the US market. However, in May the government announced that it would relax some sanctions in view of rising energy prices due to the war in Ukraine.