U.S. not negotiating new Venezuela prisoner swap regardless of attraction, say U.S. officers

U.S. not negotiating new Venezuela prisoner swap regardless of attraction, say U.S. officers

U.S. not negotiating new Venezuela prisoner swap regardless of attraction, say U.S. officers

By Jonathan Landay and Vivian Dry

WASHINGTON/CARACAS (Reuters) – America is just not discussing a prisoner trade as described in a letter and video attraction addressed to President Joe Biden by an American detained in Venezuela, in keeping with two U.S. officers.

Eyvin Hernandez was “fairly probably coerced” into interesting to Biden to swap him and 7 different U.S. detainees for Alex Saab, a Colombian-born businessman dealing with trial in Miami, stated one of many U.S. officers, talking on situation of anonymity.

Hernandez, a 35-year-old Los Angeles public defender, despatched the letter and video to Biden in February.

“I am making this attraction to you on behalf of myself, my household, my buddies, and all the opposite U.S. Individuals which can be right here, unlawfully detained in Venezuela,” Hernandez stated within the video, which was reviewed by Reuters and is being reported for the primary time. “We all know that we are going to be launched when you make a commerce for Alex Saab for all of us.”

His letter, additionally reviewed by Reuters, was beforehand reported by Newsweek.

The Venezuelan Ministry of Data didn’t reply to questions on whether or not a prisoner swap was being thought of, or whether or not Hernandez was coerced into making his attraction.

Within the video, Hernandez says swapping him and the opposite detainees for Saab, a long-time ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, can be the “solely method” they could possibly be freed.

Saab is charged with siphoning round $350 million out of Venezuela by means of the U.S. in a bribery scheme linked to Venezuela’s state-controlled trade fee. He denies the allegation. No date has been set for his trial.

Declining to touch upon the specifics of any ongoing case, a U.S. State Division spokesperson appeared to point that talks on a prisoner swap involving Saab could be doable after his trial ran its course.

The spokesperson cautioned in opposition to any reporting that recommended a deal had been reached to safe the discharge of an American wrongfully detained in Venezuela, “or that there are lively conversations about releasing a serious U.S. prison suspect who hasn’t even gone to trial.”

The primary U.S. official additionally stated no negotiations have been underway.

Hernandez’ brother, Henry Martinez, informed Reuters by WhatsApp from Los Angeles that the household had obtained no official data from U.S. officers about any doable trade.


Biden says releasing Individuals wrongfully detained abroad is a high precedence. He has presided over various swaps, notably one in December by which basketball star Brittney Griner was launched by Moscow in trade for convicted Russian arms seller Viktor Bout.

Within the video, Hernandez was unshaven. He appeared well-fed, sitting in a inexperienced sweatshirt over a blue shirt and pants. The hand-written letter lay on a desk earlier than him.

Reuters was unable to find out how the video and letter have been conveyed to the White Home. That Hernadez was allowed to make them indicated Venezuelan authorities permitted.

In his letter, Hernandez wrote that his attraction for was backed by three different U.S. detainees: Jerrel Kenemore, Jason Saad and Joseph Cristella.

The Biden administration in October declared Hernandez wrongfully detained. He and Kenemore, 53, have been arrested in March 2022 on fees of illegally coming into Venezuela from Colombia.

Caracas in October launched seven Individuals in trade for 2 of Maduro’s family members convicted on drug trafficking fees in the USA, amid talks between U.S. and Venezuelan officers that started in March 2022.

The talks marked a shift in U.S. coverage from the Trump administration’s “most strain” marketing campaign of sanctions and different measures aimed toward forcing Maduro from energy following 2018 elections broadly deemed fraudulent.

Venezuela has the world’s largest confirmed oil reserves. The Biden administration has been searching for different oil sources due to disruptions associated to the conflict in Ukraine.

Washington says Maduro’s authorities should take concrete steps towards free elections and launch detained politicians earlier than it considers any easing of sanctions.

(Extra reporting by Simon Lewis from Washington; Modifying by Daniel Wallis)

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