Venezuelans cross a bridge
linking San Antonio del Tachira, in Venezuela, with Cucuta, in Colombia,
to buy basic supplies, July 16, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
arrested an American national and his Venezuelan wife on charges of
fomenting unrest against embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
a statement read on state television on Wednesday, Venezuelan Interior
Minister Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez said that the country’s intelligence
service had detained Joshua Holt in a public housing complex on the
western outskirts of the capital, Caracas, on June 30.
He was arrested, according to Lopez, on suspicion of ‘urging armed groups to destabilize Venezuela.’
added that six other Venezuelans were also arrested and another six
were killed in a gunfight with intelligence agents. It was not clear
whether the arrests and the shootings occurred during the raid on Holt’s
Earlier, US media had reported the arrest by
Venezuelan authorities of the 24-year-old Holt, a Mormon and a former
missionary from Utah. He had reportedly traveled to the South American
country to marry a woman, also a Mormon, he had recently been acquainted
Holt, according to US media reports, had spent his
week-long honeymoon with his wife in Venezuela and, awaiting US visas
for her in the Venezuelan capital when they were both were nabbed in
their apartment in the public housing complex.
His wife, originally from Ecuador, is a naturalized Venezuelan citizen.
The Miami Herald,
citing witnesses, reported that Holt was arrested after he filmed a
door-to-door police search on his cell phone. It claimed, however, that
the Venezuelan police then planted some weapons inside his apartment in
order to frame him.
People line up to buy groceries outside a supermarket in the La Urbina neighborhood in Caracas, July 13, 2016. (Photo by AFP)Lopez,
the Venezuelan interior minister, however, asserted that Holt “has
admitted that he is a trained gunman who has a certificate from the (US)
Federal Aviation Administration accrediting him as a pilot.”
to Venezuelan officials, some weapons, including an AK-47 automatic
rifle, a replica M-4 rifle, some ammunition, a grenade, maps of Caracas
and computer equipment had been seized in the apartment where the couple
The Maduro government is under severe pressure amid an acute economic crisis that has almost crippled the country.
Shortages of food and medicine force Venezuelans to routinely cross into neighboring Colombia en masse to buy basic stuff.
The economic crisis is mainly blamed on Maduro, who in turn accuses foreign powers of being behind his country’s woes.
Maduro has faced protests since 2014, with the opposition vigorously pushing to oust him legally.