Seven American prisoners have been released from Venezuela after years of captivity, including the remaining five members of the so-called “CITGO 6” US oil executives who were taken into custody in Caracas in 2017.
“I am grateful for the hard work of dedicated public servants across the U.S. Government who made this possible, and who continue to deliver on my Administration’s unflinching commitment to keep faith with Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained all around the world,” Mr Biden said in a White House statement.
“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more,” he added. “To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release.”
The prisoner swap also released two other Americans, Marine veteran Matthew Heath and Osman Khan.
The release of the seven prisoners was made in exchange for freeing two of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were in jail on drug charges, according to US officials.
The CITGO 6, named for the US petroleum refining copmany of the same name, were arrested in 2017 on embezzlement charges and have been kept under arrest since.
Their capture was thought to be in reliation to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman close to Mr Maduro who was sent to the US.
US officials have been visiting Venezuela throughout the year, including in March and June, “for discussions about the welfare and safety of US nationals in Venezuela,” according to the State Department.
Venezuela broke off full diplomatic relations with the US in 2019, amid a disputed presidential election in which US officials backed Mr Maduro’s opponent Juan Guaido as the rightful winner.
The Biden administration has faced scrutiny for its efforts regarding Americans imprisoned abroad.
WNBA star Brittney Griner remains in Russian prison despite US efforts to negotiate her release.
Ms Griner was arrested in February on drug possession charges and convicted in August for being found with vape cartridges containing hash oil in a Moscow airport.