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Venezuela releases 2 Americans after visit from U.S. officials

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony marking the start of the judicial year at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela in January.
Matias Delacroix
/
AP
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony marking the start of the judicial year at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela in January.

Venezuela's government released two Americans on Tuesday, a senior U.S. administration official confirms to NPR.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro released Gustavo Cárdenas, one of six U.S. Citgo executives detained in 2017, and Jorge Alberto Fernández, who The New York Times says is a Cuban American tourist arrested under terrorism charges for bringing a drone into Venezuela. The Times first reported the news of the pair's release.

Cárdenas was one of six U.S. oil executives sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2020 in the South American country on charges of embezzlement tied to a never-executed proposal to refinance around $4 billion of Citgo bonds. All proclaimed their innocence.

The sentencing culminated a saga that began Nov. 21, 2017, the day the men arrived for what they were told was a sudden business meeting in the country's capital of Caracas. Once in the boardroom, however, military intelligence officers stormed the room. Officers demanded the men hand over passports and other identification cards, and then hauled them off to jail, The Associated Press and the Financial Times reported at the time.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, White House press secretary said the purpose of a high-level U.S. delegation to Venezuela last weekend was to discuss a range of issues that included energy security and also the health and welfare of detained U.S. citizens.

"We're never going to miss an opportunity to do exactly that," she said. "And I will just note, in this scenario, that they are separate. They are separate paths and conversations."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.