President Joe Biden’s administration expects the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela to take steps toward the release of Americans “wrongfully” detained in that country in the coming weeks as part of a deal that has brought relief from energy penalties. US assistant secretary for hemisphere affairs, Brian Nichols, said Voice of America.
Nichols said the US is taking the terms of the deal “seriously” and expects Caracas to “comply” before the end of November.
“I hope that these measures will be achieved, as will the release of American citizens who are overincarcerated in Venezuela,” Nichols answered when asked about Washington’s confidence in the word of the Maduro government.
The US allows “limited” oil, gas, and oil operations of the Venezuelan aeronautical consortium in return for the approval of opposition presidential candidate María Corina Machado and the release of Venezuelan and American detainees.
To date, only five of the more than 200 Venezuelans imprisoned for political reasons have been released. The deadline given by the White House expires on November 30, and failure to comply will result in the termination of relief of sanctions, according to the State Department.
The chief negotiator of the Maduro government, Jorge Rodríguez, said that Washington’s expectations were “false” and rejected the “pressure”, but sources in the Biden administration ensured that, behind the scenes, his counterpart knew what had been agreed upon.
The US approach to Maduro’s socialist government was criticized by Republican lawmakers, who classified the actions as “appeasement.”
Who are the detained Americans?
In October, Nichols said during a press conference that there are three US citizens detained in Venezuela, identified as Eyvin Hernández, Jerrel Kenemore, and Joseph Cristella.
Hernandez is a 45-year-old lawyer from Los Angeles, California. He was arrested in March of last year on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. His relatives repeatedly asked Biden to redouble efforts to secure his release.
Jerrel Lloyd Kenemore, 53, has been detained since early 2022. He is accused of illegally crossing the country and other unspecified crimes, he reported at the time. The Associated Press quoted a State Department spokesman.
Human rights defender Tamara Suju, executive director of the Casla Institute, reported last year that she received information about Kenemore’s attempts on his life in his cell of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM).
Sujo also warned that Kenemore went on hunger strike and was subjected to “psychological torture and cruel treatment, prolonged solitary confinement in a dark cell, and detention as part of the regime’s criminal plan for exchange, because just being an American…”
Joseph Ryan Cristella, of Florida, was arrested last year under unclear circumstances.