Oct 1, 2022 - World

Venezuela frees 7 Americans in prisoner swap

Flags of the United States and Venezuela.

Flags of the United States and Venezuela. Photo: Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty Images

Venezuela and the U.S. conducted a rare prisoner swap Saturday, freeing seven Americans from the South American country in exchange for two relatives of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, the White House said.

Why it matters: This is the largest prisoner swap of President Biden's term so far, the Associated Press reports.

  • The exchange secures freedom for seven U.S. citizens whom Venezuela "wrongfully detained," Biden said in a statement on Saturday.

Details: The freed American prisoners include five employees of Citgo — Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and Jose Pereira.

  • Both Matthew Heath, a former U.S. Marine corporal, and Osman Khan, who was arrested earlier this year, were freed, too, AP reports.
  • "These individuals will soon be reunited with their families and back in the arms of their loved ones where they belong," Biden said in the statement.

The other side: Franqui Flores and his cousin Efrain Campo — nephews of Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores — were granted clemency by Biden before being released, according to the AP.

  • The pair was arrested in Haiti back in 2015 and jailed in the U.S. on drug convictions.

The big picture: The Biden administration has faced tremendous pressure to bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner and American Paul Whelan from Russian detention.

  • "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," Biden said.
Go deeper