The United States hailed the release in March of two U.S. citizens who were wrongfully detained by the Maduro regime in Venezuela. The two are Gustavo Cardenas and Jorge Fernandez.
“Unjustly holding Americans captive is always unacceptable,” said President Joe Biden in a statement announcing their release. He praised the “tireless efforts” of the United States’ diplomatic team that had worked for their freedom. President Biden emphasized that his Administration will continue to fight to bring home all U.S. citizens, in Venezuela and elsewhere, unjustly detained.
Gustavo Cardenas was employed by the oil company CITGO, and is one of the so-called “Citgo 6,” five U.S. citizens and one U.S. permanent resident, who were wrongfully arrested in Venezuela in 2017 on phony charges of corruption. Jorge Fernandez was detained in 2021 on a spurious terrorism charge.
Their release came after a high-level U.S. delegation visited Venezuela in early March, the first since the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with the Maduro regime in 2019. The White House noted that bringing wrongfully detained U.S nationals home was the first priority of the diplomatic visit. The delegation also urged the Maduro regime to return to the negotiating table in Mexico with the democratic opposition’s Unitary Platform to restore democracy in Venezuela.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price applauded the release of the two U.S. citizens, as well. He also welcomed Nicolas Maduro’s statement that he is willing to return to negotiations with the Unitary Platform, as an “important and positive step.” The Unitary Platform is a political alliance proposed in 2021 by Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaidó. Maduro boycotted the last round of negotiations with the Unitary Platform, which had been scheduled to take place in October 2021.
“We continue to believe that Venezuelan-led comprehensive negotiations may represent the best mechanism available to restore Venezuela’s democracy,” said Spokesperson Price. “That is why we support the Unitary Platform’s goal of immediately resuming negotiations with the Maduro regime to restore free and fair elections, democratic institutions, and the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights in Venezuela. . . . We will continue to do everything we can with [Interim President] Juan Guaidó and the Unitary Platform, but also through other channels, to support the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people.”