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South Valley Journal

After two years in a Venezuelan prison, Josh and Thamy Holt finally return home

Jun 18, 2018 01:37PM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

Sen. Orrin Hatch, Laurie and Josh Holt Photo: Senator Hatch's Office (Photo Courtesy Senator Hatch office)

By Jennifer Gardiner| [email protected]

It was the news the friends and family of Riverton residents Josh and Thamy Holt had started to worry that they would never hear: “Josh and Thamy Holt, released from prison and headed back to the U.S.” The news seemed to come out of nowhere, but the entire world celebrated as the couple made their way back home to Utah.

Josh Holt traveled to Venezuela in 2016 to marry Thamara Candelo, and bring her and her two daughters back home to the United States. Instead of wedded bliss, military intelligence accused them of being spies and charged them of terrorism, espionage and illegal possession of weapons after authorities claimed to have found two automatic rifles and a hand-grenade in their apartment. The couple had been waiting on Calena’s U.S. Visa when they were arrested. 

The last couple of years have been anything short of a massive emotional rollercoaster for Josh’s family. His mother, Laurie Moon Holt, and her husband have been advocating for his release ever since. On three separate occasions, the Holts had been put through the torment of thinking they were getting closer to seeing their son released only to have it pulled out from under them by some sort of political red tape. 

In February of 2018, after a year of working with Venezuela's child welfare agency, Thamy Holt’s 7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, whose father died in 2017, travelled to the U.S. to live with Josh Holt’s parents. Not knowing when or if her son would be released, Laurie Moon Holt and her husband travelled to Miami to meet the young girl and bring her back to Utah. Thamy Holt’s other daughter continued to reside in Venezuela until her mother’s release when she travelled with Josh and Thamy back to Utah. 

On May 26, 2018, Sen. Orrin Hatch issued the following statement as the Holt’s were already on their way to Washington, D.C.:

"I’m pleased to announce that after two years of hard work, we’ve secured the release of Josh and Thamy Holt, who are now on their way home to the United States from Venezuela. Over the last two years, I’ve worked with two presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contacts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela and [Venezuelan] President [Nicolas] Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton.”

Hatch went on to express his thanks to Chairman Bob Corker for his pivotal efforts, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for their help in this effort.

“I want to particularly thank Caleb McCarry, whose expertise and effort in Venezuela on my behalf has been instrumental in bringing Josh home," Hatch said.

Hatch has worked for the last two years to secure Josh’s release, including most recently negotiations with Maduro himself.

Their release came just one day after a meeting between U.S. officials and Maduro in Caracas, whom the Trump administration has claimed runs a dictatorship. This meeting came on the heels of months of meetings between an aide to Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and allies of Maduro. 

Trump tweeted and said Holt had been a hostage and expected to host Holt and his family when they arrived at the White House when they arrived in Washington, D.C.. 

The Holt family said in a statement that Holt’s release was a miracle. 

"We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish,” said the Holt family in statement. “We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle. We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish. We ask that you allow us to meet with our son and his wife before giving any interviews and statements. We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle.” 

After the Holts arrived in Washington, D.C., they spent the night at an area hospital undergoing a mirage of tests before they were allowed to fly home to Utah. On May 28,  they were met with cheers, hugs and banners from friends and family and members of their community as they came down the escalators at the Salt Lake International Airport. 

It was a welcome home fit for a man and his wife, who only strived to get married and live happily ever after but faced adversity from the very start. The Holts have received support from not only friends and family but from strangers all over the world. Welcome home Josh and Thamy Holt!