The mother of an American citizen arrested for “espionage” in Venezuela says her son’s health is deteriorating rapidly, he has not received due process, and there is evidence to believe the socialist government framed him to take an American prisoner.
Joshua Holt was arrested in July after honeymooning on Venezuela’s Margarita island. Military police stormed his wife Thamara Caleño’s home while Holt was there, and police claim to have found a bag full of weapons. Witnesses say the police planted the weapons there. A woman who spoke to the Miami Herald in July said he saw police bring the weapons into the building, only to “find” them later and charge Holt with “terrorism, espionage and illegal possession of weapons.”
“The only reason they have him is because he’s a gringo,” she asserted.
Holt, who became fluent in Spanish during his two-year Mormon missionary service, met Caleño online and fell in love, the couple marrying earlier this year.
Now Holt’s mother Laurie is demanding he be let return home as he is suffering from health problems that may endanger his life if he is not hospitalized. Laurie Holt held a rally in the family’s hometown of Riverton, Utah, last week to pray for his health and request the U.S. State Department intervene.
“I just plead to you to ask you don’t let this young American man die over there. Please let him come home to his family,” Laurie Holt told the crowd. According to her, Joshua suffered from kidney stones and bronchitis, and doctors have told him he has begun to bleed internally.
State Department spokesman Kevin Brosnahan has said that the Obama administration is “concerned” and has requested the Venezuelan government provide the 24-year-old medical aid. In addition, Holt’s senator, Orrin Hatch, has told reporters he is “in touch with the Consul General in Venezuela.” “I will continue to do everything in my power in working with the State Department and through diplomatic back-channels to ensure that this situation is swiftly resolved,” he promised.
The Miami Herald notes that Holt is the twelfth known American citizen in Venezuelan prison and not the first in which evidence strongly suggests the socialist and staunchly anti-American government fabricated evidence to put an American in jail. Shortly after Holt’s arrest, Barbara Leininger wrote an opinion column for the Herald. Leininger’s son, Todd Michael Leininger, has been in prison in Venezuela for over two years under similar circumstances.
“I feel chills run down my spine as I read the charges. They are almost identical to my son’s charges. Oh my gosh not again, this is crazy. I see this poor family doing exactly what I did over two years ago,” she wrote. Leininger appears to have lost hope that the Obama administration will intervene in her son’s case. “Of course, I hope their experience is a better and more productive one than I have had and that their son does not have to suffer as my son has,” she writes. “I have seen the complete impotency of the U.S. Embassy to protect its citizens in these Venezuelan prisons.”
With twelve American citizens in Venezuelan prisons, it is possible that Caracas — struggling with arguably the world’s worst economy despite its rich oil reserves — may use their custody of these citizens to extract money from the U.S. government. Venezuela is a close ally of Iran — a nation, reports recently revealed, that used the unjust detention of U.S. citizens to extract millions from the Obama administration.
While President Barack Obama himself referred to the $400 million paid to Tehran in cash in exchange for the release of four U.S. citizens detained there as “not a ransom,” officials have confirmed that the money was indeed contingent upon the safety of the four men released: The Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. A fifth, Robert Levinson, remains in Iran, though the Iranian government denies having him in prison.
In addition to the $400 million shipped to Tehran in cash, all of the $1.7 billion given to Iran as part of the famed Iran nuclear deal was handed over in cash to avoid the “effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions.”