American released from Venezuela prison after 5 years

Caracas, Venezuela — An American man detained during a wave of unrest in Venezuela has been freed after being held for five years. Todd Leininger, 37, was arrested in April 2014 on what his family describes as trumped-up charges.

Leininger was released Thursday. A senior Venezuelan official characterized the release as a gesture aimed at improving U.S. relations, which have been especially strained since the U.S. chose to rebuke Nicolas Maduro and recognize National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the country’s president. Maduro suspended diplomatic talks in January.

The U.S. State Department called Leininger’s release “overdue,” noting a Venezuelan court ordered him freed in November. A department spokesperson issued a statement in March noting concerns against the Maduro regime regarding adequate nutrition being provided to detained U.S. citizens.

“Maduro loyalists continue to prevent our prisoners’ families and attorneys from assisting with basic access to food and medicine, while toying with their mental health and general wellbeing,” Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino noted.

Venezuelan officials accused Leininger of aiding the opposition during anti-government protests. He was arrested in San Cristóbal while he and his wife were visiting his sister-in-law.

The Florida native is one of several Americans who have found themselves behind bars in Venezuela as the nation’s political and economic crisis deepens.

Joshua Holt was released after being held for over two years. Five Citgo oil executives who are U.S. citizens remain detained.

Categories: US & World News

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