In a controversial and politically risky move, Joe Biden does not hesitate to pardon and release two grandchildren of Nicolás Maduro, also known as ‘Narco nephews’ for their involvement in drug trafficking, in exchange for the release of seven Americans detained ‘unjustly’ for years in Venezuela. A “difficult and painful decision”, assured a senior American executive, while the White House continues to weave its “hostage diplomacy”, as demonstrated by the release of two other Americans in Iran and the incessant negotiations to repatriate the star of the women’s basketball Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan detained in Moscow.
The prisoners exchanged
The latest prisoner exchange took place in a third country. These are Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Matthew Heath and Osman Khan. The first five are senior executives of Citgo, an American subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos, arrested over 4 years ago along with their colleague Gustavo Cárdenas, already released in March. Heath, in handcuffs since September 2020, is a veteran of the Marines, while Khan has been in jail since last January. A White House source explained that “it became clear in the negotiations that the release of the seven Americans was essential for the release of two Venezuelans, Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, sometimes referred to as’Narco nephews for their relations with Maduro’s wife ».
In fact, they are two grandchildren of Cilia Flores, the Venezuelan first lady: they were arrested in Haiti in 2015 during a Goddess operation and sentenced in 2017 to 18 years in prison on charges of conspiring to trade 800 kg of cocaine. In the USA.
Harsh reactions even among the Republicans
Biden’s move sparked harsh reactions among Republicans. For Senator Marco Rubio, who winks at Venezuelan exiles in the swing state of Florida, the exchange now “exposes Americans around the world to danger by putting a price tag on them. It’s “a victory for Maduro,” he warns.
The exchange, however, comes against the background of an attempt to thaw the Biden administration with Caracas, also with the aim of being able to use Venezuelan gas and oil in the future instead of Russian ones, which have ended up in the crosshairs of Western sanctions for the war in Ukraine.