Venezuela confirms arresting US national
Venezuela says it has arrested an American national and his Venezuelan wife on charges of fomenting unrest against embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
In a statement read on state television on Wednesday, Venezuelan Interior Minister Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez said that the country’s intelligence service had detained Joshua Holt in a public housing complex on the western outskirts of the capital, Caracas, on June 30.
He was arrested, according to Lopez, on suspicion of ‘urging armed groups to destabilize Venezuela.’
Lopez added that six other Venezuelans were also arrested and another six were killed in a gunfight with intelligence agents. It was not clear whether the arrests and the shootings occurred during the raid on Holt’s apartment.
Earlier, US media had reported the arrest by Venezuelan authorities of the 24-year-old Holt, a Mormon and a former missionary from Utah. He had reportedly traveled to the South American country to marry a woman, also a Mormon, he had recently been acquainted with.
Holt, according to US media reports, had spent his week-long honeymoon with his wife in Venezuela and, awaiting US visas for her in the Venezuelan capital when they were both were nabbed in their apartment in the public housing complex.
His wife, originally from Ecuador, is a naturalized Venezuelan citizen.
The Miami Herald, citing witnesses, reported that Holt was arrested after he filmed a door-to-door police search on his cell phone. It claimed, however, that the Venezuelan police then planted some weapons inside his apartment in order to frame him.
Lopez, the Venezuelan interior minister, however, asserted that Holt “has admitted that he is a trained gunman who has a certificate from the (US) Federal Aviation Administration accrediting him as a pilot.”
According to Venezuelan officials, some weapons, including an AK-47 automatic rifle, a replica M-4 rifle, some ammunition, a grenade, maps of Caracas and computer equipment had been seized in the apartment where the couple was residing.
The Maduro government is under severe pressure amid an acute economic crisis that has almost crippled the country.
Shortages of food and medicine force Venezuelans to routinely cross into neighboring Colombia en masse to buy basic stuff.
The economic crisis is mainly blamed on Maduro, who in turn accuses foreign powers of being behind his country’s woes.
Maduro has faced protests since 2014, with the opposition vigorously pushing to oust him legally.