Venezuela crisis: Keys to a peaceful power transition and freedom of American detainees

Freed Venezuela prisoner Josh Holt: I was a trophy to them

Utah native Josh Holt explains what it was like to be held captive in Venezuela and how he was released.

American diplomats continue to target the Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA as part of the United States-led sanctions to cut off the financial assets of embattled President Nicolás Maduro's regime. These sanctions are American diplomat’s main strategy to facilitate a peaceful transition of power from Maduro to National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, who over 50 nations have recognized as the interim Venezuelan president, and avoid any military intervention in the Latin American country.

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Luis Urdaneta, former PDVSA vice president from 1994-1998, told FOX Business’ Trish Regan that these sanctions could eventually squeeze Maduro out of power.

“Last week, only 90,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil were processed in U.S. oil refineries,” he said on Thursday. “That's the only source of cash that it has at this point in time, whatever little it was getting from the United States because of the sanctions, that's going to dry out real quick.”

Urdaneta is also a member of Guaidó's brand new Citgo Petroleum Corporation (or Citgo) transitional board. Citgo is Venezuela’s most important foreign asset and a U.S. subsidiary of PDVSA. Guaidó named his own board in an attempt to seize control of Citgo away from Maduro.

Furthering the crisis in Venezuela and the tensions that already exist with the U.S., the Maduro government has detained six Citgo executives, five of them dual- U.S. citizens, for nearly two years without a trial or due process. Their hearing was recently delayed for the thirteenth time on February 20th.

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Josh Holt is an American who was also detained in Venezuela for over a year and a half before U.S. lawmakers secured his release in December of 2017. In an interview on “Trish Regan Primetime,” Holt stated that he was held by Maduro and the Venezuelan government as a prop to garner attention.

“I was a trophy,” Holt said. “A lot of the things they do, they do it because they are looking for something out of it. They like all the attention they are getting. And they don't believe that anyone is going to do anything about it.”

Special representative and U.S. envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams, in a hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, said that the Citgo executives release will be “rapid” once Guaidó assumes power and Maduro is pushed out.

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Urdaneta agrees and adds that while sanctions are a start, the key to a transition of power in Venezuela will be the Trump administration negotiating further on its plan of amnesty for Maduro and his highest lieutenants.

“One of the things we are look for in the United States is the leadership to be able to negotiate an amnesty that is actually believable,” he said. “It has to be something negotiated and maybe get somebody to accept those terms and start breaking the group in such a way that it finally goes away. That's probably the last thing that can be done.”

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