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Venezuela Arrests More Americans as Maduro Seeks Better Ties

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Venezuela has arrested Americans this year even as that country’s government has made gestures toward improving relations with the US to help ease a humanitarian and political crisis.

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(Bloomberg) — Venezuela has arrested Americans this year even as that country’s government has made gestures toward improving relations with the US to help ease a humanitarian and political crisis.

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A State Department spokesperson confirmed the arrests on Tuesday night but did not identify the Americans, say how many had been detained, or provide any further details, citing privacy concerns. 

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The detentions were reported earlier by the Associated Press, which said three US citizens had been detained on charges of entering the country illegally. The AP, citing an anonymous source, reported that two of the Americans had been arrested separately in the state of Tachira in March; the third along the border with Colombia in January. 

In late June, a US delegation traveled to Caracas to seek the release of other American prisoners and coax President Nicolas Maduro’s government to resume long-dormant political negotiations. 

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Among the cases they discussed was that of Matthew Heath, a former Marine who has been held in Venezuela since September 2020, according to people with knowledge of the trip.

The US cut diplomatic ties with the Venezuelan government in 2019 but opened a path to lifting economic sanctions and the country’s isolation if Maduro agreed to concessions. 

The Biden administration has allowed shipments of Venezuelan oil to Europe and gave Chevron Corp. approval to negotiate its agreement with the state energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, after tight supplies of crude and rising oil prices led to a surge in gasoline prices. But the US excluded Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, from the recent Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles over concerns about democracy and human rights.  

Roughly 6 million Venezuelans have fled the country — the vast majority trying to escape crushing economic misery and starting anew in neighboring Latin American countries as well as the Caribbean. The exodus has become one of the largest displacement crises in the world, according to the UN Refugee Agency data. 

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