In Venezuela, twenty-one “political prisoners,” including eight Americans, were released

Venezuela released twenty-one “political prisoners” on Wednesday, December 20, including eight Americans, as part of a “humanitarian exchange” of prisoners with Washington, according to the NGO Coalition for Human Rights and Democracy

In Venezuela, twenty-one “political prisoners,” including eight Americans, were released

Venezuela released twenty-one “political prisoners” on Wednesday, December 20, including eight Americans, as part of a “humanitarian exchange” of prisoners with Washington, according to the NGO Coalition for Human Rights and Democracy. The released prisoners are “eight Americans and thirteen Venezuelans,” Maria Alejandra Poleo, one of the NGO’s lawyers, announced to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Among the freed Americans are Luke Alexander Denman and Airan Berry, who were serving 20-year prison sentences for a failed attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in 2020.

A little earlier, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, told the press to expect “good news” concerning the Americans imprisoned in Venezuela. “We hope to have some good news to share, probably later today (…). We want to make sure our fellow Americans are freed. We are also focusing on political prisoners in Venezuela and trying to secure their release,” he added.

According to the American and Venezuelan press as well as human rights activists, the prisoner exchange concerns Alex Saab, a businessman arrested in Cape Verde in 2020 and then extradited to the United States in 2021, accused of money laundering and suspected of being a front man for Nicolas Maduro. Ana Leonor Acosta, also a member of the NGO Coalition for Human Rights and Democracy, explained that the release of these prisoners was part of a “humanitarian exchange,” which includes Mr. Saab.

New sign of warming

There has been a warming between Washington and Caracas in recent months. In October, the Venezuelan government and opposition reached an agreement authorizing the presence of international observers during the 2024 presidential elections. Washington had eased for six months its economic sanctions, imposed in 2019 to try to oust Nicolas Maduro from power.

In the process, Caracas released five political prisoners in October just hours after the announcement of the reduction in American sanctions. At the end of August, Amnesty International denounced “arbitrary detentions for political reasons” in Venezuela, estimating that some 300 people could be considered political prisoners.