Former New Mexico governor and Energy Secretary, Bill Richardson, couldn’t secure the release of a group of US citizens prisoners of the Nicolás Maduro regime, including two ex-military men accused of trying to topple it by force.
“We regret that we were not able to secure the release of the Americans,” Richardson said in a statement reproduced by CNN in Spanish. Caracas and Washington have not diplomatic ties for more than a decade now, after Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez kicked the last US ambassador out during the Bush administration.
Richardson said he met with Maduro once and three times with Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro’s propaganda minister. Rodriguez is the son of Jorge Rodriguez, a Venezuelan guerrilla who was involved in the 1970s kidnapping for ransom of William Niehous, a US business executive. Rodriguez senior died of a heart attack as he was interrogated to reveal the hostage’s location.
Rodriguez has not commented on his meetings with Richardson. The cabinet minister has not appeared publicly for several days now.
Richardson arrived in Venezuela Wednesday to try and negotiate the release of a group of US citizens, including workers for US oil major Chevron and two former Green Berets, accused of trying to topple the Nicolas Maduro regime by force.
A lifelong Democrat, Richardson also has ample Latino roots: his mother and grandmother were both Mexican nationals. Besides experience in government, the envoy also has considerable experience in oil, as a former Energy Secretary during the administration of Bill Clinton.
Among the US citizens imprisoned in Venezuela are former Green Berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who got arrested in May 2020.
In 2018, Maduro arrested US Latter Day Saints missionary, Joshua Holt, on weapons and murder charges. Holt got released after several tense months.