Updated Mar 9, 2022 - World

Venezuela frees 2 detained Americans

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's president, delivers a State of the Union address at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, on Jan. 15, 2022. Photographer: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela's president, delivers a State of the Union address at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, in January. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Venezuela has freed U.S. citizens Gustavo Cardenas and Jorge Fernandez from detention, the White House announced just before midnight Tuesday.

Why it Matters: The announcement signals a possible thawing of tensions between Washington and the Latin American country, amid Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

  • It follows a Biden administration delegation's secret weekend trip to Venezuela, which included a top White House official and State Department hostage negotiator, AP notes.

The big picture: Oil executive Cardenas had been jailed with colleagues since 2017 and Venezuelan authorities arrested Fernandez on what President Biden referred to in the White House statement as "spurious charges," per AP.

What they're saying: "Tonight — two Americans who were wrongfully detained in Venezuela will be able to hug their families once more," Biden said in the emailed statement.

  • "Unjustly holding Americans captive is always unacceptable," Biden added.
"And even as we celebrate the return of Cardenas and Fernandez, we also remember the names and the stories of every American who is being unjustly held against their will — in Venezuela, in Russia, in Afghanistan, Syria, China, Iran, and elsewhere around the world. My Administration will keep fighting to bring them all home."  
— President Biden

Worth noting: Last weekend's visit by the U.S. delegation came amid concerns over rising gas prices and was followed on Tuesday by the U.S. ban on Russian oil imports as Moscow continued its bombardment of Ukraine.

Flashback: In 2019, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro cut ties with the Trump administration and threatened to expel American diplomats following calls for his ouster.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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