Venezuela Frees Seven Americans In Prisoner Exchange For Relatives Of The President

Seven Americans have been released from prison in Venezuela in a prisoner exchange for two relatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

US Venezuela prisoner exchange
Franqui Flores and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores - nephews of Venezuela's first lady - were arrested in 2015

The Americans were exchanged for two of Mr Maduro's wife's nephews, they were both serving 18-year prison sentences in the United States on drug charges. The exchange included five American oil executives, authorities confirmed.

Venezuela announced that two men "unjustly" held in the US were freed and added that a group of citizens from the US were released for "humanitarian reasons".

US Marine veteran Matthew Heath and another US citizen, Osman Khan, were among the oil executives of Venezuela's US-based oil company, Citgo, released in the swap.

The oil executives - Jose Pereira, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, and Tomeu Vadell - were jailed five years ago after Venezuela charged them with terrorism.

US President Joe Biden said in a statement: "Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained - know that we remain dedicated to securing their release."

In exchange for the release of the US citizens, President Biden agreed to free two nephews of Venezuela's first lady, Cilia Flores.

Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Flores were arrested in Haiti in 2015 and taken to New York, where they were convicted of drug charges.

A US official said the exchange took place at an airport in an unspecified third country.

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