Americas

American prisoner in Venezuela calls on Biden to push for release

A U.S. citizen who has been detained in Venezuela for several years is calling on President Biden to negotiate his release from a Venezuelan prison.

Jorge Toledo, who was sentenced to prison along with five other American oil executives in 2020, was convicted of corruption charges after traveling to Venezuela on a work trip with oil company Citgo.

“My colleagues and I went through a broken judicial system which violated all proceedings and legal due process ending in an unfair trial, condemning me without any evidence of a crime, without committing a crime,” Toledo wrote in a letter to Biden released Monday.

He continued, “Mr. President, I am an innocent man; perhaps my only crime here is being an American.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment on the letter.

Toledo is among several Americans detained abroad on charges condemned by the U.S. government, including WNBA player Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan in Russia.

Vice President Harris said in an interview on Sunday that freeing Americans wrongfully detained abroad is on the administration’s “highest priority list.”

“We take very seriously and we’ve been very clear, Brittney Griner, and there are sadly other Americans who are being unlawfully detained around the world, and it is on our highest priority list to bring those folks home,” said Harris.

U.S. diplomats have traveled to Venezuela previously to urge the release of detained Americans.

Toledo’s letter, dated July 5, called on Biden to support his freedom in celebration of Independence Day.

The American citizen wrote in his letter that he and his colleagues, known as the “Citgo 6,” have been in “arbitrary and unjust imprisonment” for more than 1,680 days.

“I am calling on your humanity, courage and decisive leadership to put an end to this difficult and extreme circumstance,” he wrote to Biden.

Toledo wrote that he lives in a “dungeon” and has experienced serious health conditions due to his confinement, including pneumonia, kidney failure, COVID-19 and multiple infections, as well as severe weight loss.

The prisoner also appealed to his family to urge Biden to act, describing himself as a husband, father, son, brother, friend and grandfather.

“Your leadership and authority are necessary to put in place the required prompt actions to ensure my release, and the release of more than 60 fellow Americans, my brothers and sisters in captivity as hostages and wrongful detainees around the world,” said Toledo.

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