An announcement from the White House this weekend revealed that the U.S. and Venezuela completed a prisoner swap which resulted in the freeing of seven American hostages in exchange for the release of two convicted nephews of President Nicholas Maduro's spouse, as Fox News reports.
According to NBC News, five of those released were executives from Houston-headquartered oil giant Citgo, all of whom had been held in Venezuela for nearly five years, following their attendance at a meeting in Caracas.
Also freed in the exchange were former U.S marine corporal Matthew Heath and Florida resident Osman Khan, whose arrests and detentions by Venezuelan authorities were characterized by the State Department as "specious" and wrongful.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken heralded the outcome in a statement, declaring, "After extraordinary efforts and perseverance across the State Department and wider U.S. government for many months, these wrongfully detained Americans and legal permanent residents are free and will soon be reunited with their loved ones."
A senior official in the Biden administration noted that the president himself had been in touch with the impacted families in the U.S. to let them know their loved ones would be returning imminently, according to the Washington Examiner.
Freedom for the seven individuals did not come without high cost, however, as evidenced by the release by the U.S. of Franqui Flores and Efrain Campo, both nephews of Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, as NBC News further noted.
The duo was arrested in 2015 as part of a federal Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation and ultimately convicted in a case that probed claims of drug trafficking within the highest reaches of the Venezuelan government.
A top administration official acknowledged that it was a "painful" decision to grant clemency and freedom to the two men referred to as the "narco nephews," as Fox News noted, the benefit of having the seven Americans returned to their families made the trade-off worthwhile.
Though this development marks a definite milestone for the administration, the White House remains under pressure to facilitate the release of many other Americans said to be held hostage or unlawfully detained in foreign countries, such as WBNA standout Brittney Griner, who remains jailed in Russia. Whether Biden will manage to notch any similar successes in the coming months, only time will tell.