My VIP for this week is Joshua Holt. He served a Spanish-speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon his return, he went online to meet people to whom he could speak Spanish. He met a woman named Thamara Caleno from Caracas, Venezuela. A relationship developed between the two of them, and he traveled to her country in June 2016 to marry her. His plan was to spend a few months in Caracas, secure visas for his new wife and her two daughters, and bring them back to the United States.
To say that Holt’s plan did not work out would be an understatement. Holt and his new bride were arrested at her family’s apartment on June 30, 2016. He was accused of stockpiling weapons and being connected with the CIA. Authorities thought that he was in Venezuela to cause problems.
Numerous U.S. government officials have attempted to get Holt and his wife released from prison but had no success. Finally, a miracle happened! It seems that an aide to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a contact among the allies of Maduro. Even though Holt’s release seemed unlikely a week ago, Sen. Corker had a “surprise meeting” with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. One day later Holt and his wife were released from prison and on their way back to the United States with the Senator.
The airplane carrying Sen. Corker, Holt, his wife, and one daughter arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on Saturday evening. There they were met by Holt’s grateful parents. President Trump later welcomed the family to the White House where Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and Utah Representative Mia Love jointed them.
I join with Holt’s parents and other Americans in welcoming Holt back to the United States. I am sure that he feels great gratitude in being in the land of the free once again. I am also grateful that the prayers and actions of his loving parents have brought such joy into their lives.