World: U.S. calls decision to release two nephews of Maduro’s wife «difficult» and «painful»

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The United States said Wednesday that the decision to release two nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's wife in exchange for seven Americans was "difficult" and "painful" after a "tough" negotiation process between the parties to secure the release of their nationals.

Archive - Flag of Venezuela (Archive) - Boris Vergara/dpa © Provided by News 360 Archive - Flag of Venezuela (Archive) - Boris Vergara/dpa

"It is our duty to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens, so we will continue to work tirelessly to bring home other Americans held hostage and unjustly detained abroad," a senior U.S. official told a press conference.

Five of these Americans are former Citgo oil company executives Tomeu Vadell, José Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and José Pereira, who were detained in November 2017. Citgo, a subsidiary of state-owned PDVSA, is controlled by Venezuela's self-proclaimed president-in-charge, opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

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Matthew Heath, a former Tennessee Marine detained in 2020 in Venezuela for alleged weapons-related offenses, has also been released, while Osman Khan, a Florida native, was arrested in January for illegally entering the country from Colombia.

Meanwhile, the two released by Washington, in "direct" negotiations between the two countries, are Franqui Flores and Efraín Antonio Campo Flores, sentenced to 18 years in prison in the United States, of which they have served seven.

The Biden Administration has clarified that all of them are in "stable health" and are on their way to the United States, although the senior U.S. official did not want to give more details "for privacy reasons".

"They have been offered a range of support options, including medical care, following their time in captivity," he said, adding that U.S. President Joe Biden has already spoken to the families.

"Today's very good news adds to a list of successes this Administration has had in bringing home unjustly detained American hostages from around the world. That includes bringing Americans home from Afghanistan, Burma, Haiti, Russia, West Africa and other parts of the world," he said.

Asked about the cases of Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia on espionage charges, and Brittney Griner, the basketball player sentenced to nine years in prison by the Russian justice system, the senior official said that "they have in mind" to continue working on it.

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