The White House announced that a group of seven Americans were released from captivity during a prisoner swap in Venezuela on Saturday, in what marked a rare exchange of political goodwill between the two countries.
In exchange for the release of the American detainees, the United States released a pair of nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's wife. The two men had been held in the U.S. on narcotics charges and were released back into the custody of the Venezuelan government.
In a statement, President Biden said the seven Americans "will soon be reunited with their families and back in the arms of their loved ones where they belong."
"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," the president added. "Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more."
Sources told The Associated Press that the swap took place on the island of St. Vincent and Grenadines — a Caribbean ally of Venezuela. The transfer of the prisoners follows a months-long negotiation process between the two countries, whose relations have soured in recent years due to the policies of Maduro and his predecessor.
Since rising to power in 2013, Maduro and his socialist government have presided over nationwide supply shortages that have led to poverty and hunger crises. Maduro's administration has also been accused of human rights violations and persistent corruption. Some politicians have said that he runs Venezuela as a dictatorship.
Following a political crisis in 2019, a split occurred between the country's Supreme Tribunal and National Assembly, the latter of which declared Maduro to have lost his re-election bid. The United States, along with many other Western nations, no longer recognizes him as the legitimate president of Venezuela, instead choosing to recognize social democrat Juan Guiadó as the country's leader.