I didn’t know if I would ever make it out. And it’s really scary to be in a place where you’re used to having freedoms and you’re locked into a cell. … It’s a very challenging situation.Savoi Wright, one of 10 Americans imprisoned in Venezuela that authorities released as part of an exchange between the U.S. and Venezuelan government.
Important Context: The U.S. released a close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro whom U.S. authorities arrested in 2020. In exchange, Venezuela released 10 Americans – six of which were considered wrongfully detained by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, Venezuela released a former Navy contractor central to a major U.S. military bribery scandal; he was arrested in Venezuela after escaping house arrest in California in 2022.
Why It Matters: Wednesday’s exchange marks the largest release of U.S. prisoners in Venezuela’s history and the release of all wrongfully detained Americans in Venezuela. The announcement takes place just weeks after the White House suspended some oil, gas and gold sanctions on the country, and in the wake of President Maduro’s commitment to implement more free and fair guidelines in the 2024 presidential election (as President Maduro, a “self-proclaimed socialist leader,” has been in office for a decade).
Something to Consider: The Biden Administration praises the deal, though some lawmakers question the decision. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called it a “disgraceful decision.” Following the swap, President Maduro stood on stage to welcome his close ally, Alex Saab, and said, “President Biden, we won’t be anyone’s colony.”
Big Picture: As Americans returned home safely on Wednesday, there remain others wrongfully detained around the world. While the U.S. does not publicly disclose the total number of Americans who are wrongfully detained, there remain at least 64 U.S. lawful permanent residents and U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained around the world, according to the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, which advocates “For The Freedom Of All Americans Held Hostage Or Wrongfully Detained Abroad.”
by Emily Hooker, based in Texas