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Human Rights

Venezuela defends detention of U.S. citizens as State Dept. pushes for 'immediate release'

At least ten Americans are currently detained in Venezuelan prisons

Venezuela
Venezuela | Novikov Aleksey

September 12, 2022 7:21am

Updated: September 12, 2022 10:03am

The Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro on Saturday defended its detention of American citizens in the country after the U.S. state department made a statement marking the two-year confinement of one of the prisoners.

The regime said that it will continue to enforce the country's laws and said it would continue to reach out to the U.S. in “search of understanding on issues” important to the two countries' bilateral relationship, reported The Associated Press. 

“It is unfortunate that the authorities of the United States insist on their claim to confer an unacceptable immunity or letter of marque to their nationals, in absolute disregard for the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples,” according to the statement.

The statement by the Venezuelan government came a day after the State Department released a statement saying it would continue to press the regime “for the immediate and unconditional release” of the U.S. citizens that are wrongfully detained in the South American country. 

At least ten Americans are currently detained in Venezuela. Five of the prisoners are oil executives from Citgo Petroleum, a U.S.-based unit of Venezuela’s state oil company, and three veterans. U.S. officials claim that Maduro’s government is holding them to use them as political bargaining chips. 

Three additional prisoners were announced in July, including a lawyer from California and a computer programmer from Texas who were arrested in March, and a third man who has not been identified. 

“This place is meant to break you psychologically and spiritually,” said Eyvin Hernandez, the California lawyer, of confinement at a maximum security prison housing many of Maduro’s opponents. “We’re all innocent, yet we’re being charged and treated as terrorists.”

The Biden administration has engaged in dialogues with Venezuela to secure the release of the other Americans imprisoned in the country. On March 8, negotiators achieved the release of two jailed Americans in the country. However, they have been unsuccessful in the release of the other eight Americans.