Sen. Dick Durbin Meets American Hostage, Dictator Maduro in Venezuela

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: U.S. Senate Minority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks to members of the media after a weekly Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon January 23, 2018 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats held a policy luncheon to discuss the Democratic agenda. (Photo by Alex …
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has announced he is “heartbroken” after visiting the socialist state of Venezuela, currently embroiled in the worst political, economic, and humanitarian crisis in its history.

In a statement on Monday, Durbin’s office confirmed that he “met with President Nicolás Maduro, members of the opposition, the President of the National Assembly, the Ministers of Health and Nutrition, business leaders, civil society groups, doctors, and humanitarian organizations.”

“The Venezuelan and American people share a long and deep friendship,” Durbin said in a statement after his visit. “I traveled to Caracas to better understand the conditions faced by Venezuelans and to urge President Maduro to adhere to basic democratic norms, particularly regarding the dubious snap election now scheduled for May.”

“I pointed out that there is bipartisan agreement in Washington on deeply troubling economic, political, and humanitarian problems in Venezuela,” Durbin said. “I was heartbroken by what I saw and heard, particularly regarding the collapse of the country’s ability to feed and medically care for its people and children.”

One other aim of Durbin’s visit was to persuade Maduro to release American prisoner Joshua Holt, who was last year sentenced to two years in prison on false weapon charges.

After visiting Holt at his jail in Caracas, Durbin said that he was “distraught and saddened” by the ordeal but remained in good conditions, despite reports of his declining health. Maduro reportedly told Durbin he would “consider” pardoning Holt but made no promises on the matter.

“They have been held and are being held for some political purpose either to be part of some trade in the future over some issue,” Durbin said.

Durbin proposed in February a “resolution condemning repressive and undemocratic actions taken by the Venezuelan government, and calling for free and fair elections for its people” as the Maduro regime prepares to rig another presidential vote that would extend his term for a further six years.

The Trump administration has responded to the crisis through multiple economic sanctions, citing the Maduro’s regime increasing use of violence and repression against political dissidents and the creation of an illegal lawmaking body that has effectively rendered the country a dictatorship.

Meanwhile, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) is also facing questions about a recent undisclosed trip to the country, which he claims was aimed at promoting “dialogue between parties that are trying to make progress.”

“Many times it has been attempted publicly and openly, and that has not worked toward resolution,” Sessions said of negotiations, adding that he paid for the trip with his own money.

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