U.S. says until Utah man freed, no talks with Venezuela

CBS NewsThe Trump administration’s top diplomat in Venezuela pressed for the release of a jailed Utah man Thursday, saying the case is the main obstacle to improving strained relations between the two countries. Todd Robinson told The Associated Press it is a “tragedy” that Joshua Holt has been imprisoned the past 19 months on what the U.S. considers trumped-up charges.

The diplomat said he is holding Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza personally responsible for anything that happens to Holt while in jail.

“I believe he can and he must resolve the situation,” Robinson said of Arreaza. “If he truly wants to talk about the other important issues between the United States and Venezuela, we can do that, but only after Joshua Holt is free.” …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.