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Maduro Regime Releases 2 US Captives, Key Dem Blasts Biden for Negotiating with Putin’s Top Ally in Latin America

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony marking the start of the judicial year at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

The White House announced the Venezuelan government freed two Americans on Tuesday night, including an oil executive held by the South American country for four years. 

Following a secret visit to Venezuela last weekend by senior Biden administration officials, captives Gustavo Cardenas and Jorge Fernandez were released by Venezuelan authorities. 

The Americans' release comes after the first White House trip to Venezuela in more than two decades. Eight other Americans remain in captivity. Cardenas and five other executives of Houston-based Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil giant, had been detained by Venezuela since 2017. The others have been detained on allegations of embezzlement and terrorism. 

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As CBN News reported, in what was supposed to be a secret trip, senior U.S. officials visited with the socialist dictatorship in Venezuela over the weekend to discuss the chance of easing oil sanctions on the major crude-exporting country.

One official described the weekend meeting as “a constructive, diplomatic but very candid dialogue” and that did not entail any quid-pro-quo but allowed the Biden administration to share its “view of the world” with the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. 

Maduro, who has been indicted in New York on drug trafficking charges, is Putin’s top ally in Latin America and his country is a top oil exporter. Venezuela's reentry into U.S. energy markets could mitigate the fallout at the pump from a possible oil embargo on Russia. 

But the discussions in Caracas were quickly condemned by top Democrat and Republic senators. The brutal Venezuelan dictatorship is notorious for human rights abuses and for destroying the country's once-thriving economy, causing countless residents to flee for their lives.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Biden’s efforts to unite the world against Putin “should not be undercut by propping up” Maduro, whose government is under investigation by the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity committed against protesters in 2017.

"Nicolás Maduro is a cancer to our hemisphere and we should not breathe new life into his reign of torture and murder," Menendez said in a statement. "As such, I would strongly oppose any action that fills the pockets of regime oligarchs with oil profits while Maduro continues to deprive Venezuelans of basic human rights, freedoms, and even food."

Negotiating with Rogue Regimes Instead of Tapping Domestic Oil Supplies

Biden may also visit Saudi Arabia sometime this spring in an effort to repair relations with the kingdom and to try to persuade the king to pump more oil, according to Axios

As CBN News reported, Biden traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday to meet with veterans and to talk about expanding access to health care and benefits for veterans affected by exposure to harmful substances, toxins, and other environmental hazards. 

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) noted the president's visit to his state -- the top producer of crude oil in the country. 

He tweeted Tuesday, "Joe Biden is in Texas today but won't meet with energy producers to find out what's needed to increase production, reduce prices, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Instead, this White House would rather meet with Venezuela and Iran." 

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott echoed Crenshaw's statement about the current administration's efforts to get oil from dubious foreign sources.

"My thoughts exactly, @RepDanCrenshaw," Scott tweeted. "It's disgusting to see Joe Biden grovel at the feet of murderous dictators instead of boosting American energy and supporting American jobs."

Evangelist Franklin Graham weighed in as well, saying it's not good to make deals with rogue regimes.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says our high gas prices are due to the Biden administration "waging war on domestic production" of oil.

Tim Stewart, president of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association told Just The News since cutting off Russian imports there are now only two ways for the U.S. to get oil.

"You have two options," Stewart explained. "One, you import from the Iranians and the Venezuelans, two terrorism-sponsoring states. Or you open up the U.S. domestic production. And for whatever reason, the Biden administration seems to think that the Iranian and Venezuelan option is better than the Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, North Dakota, and New Mexico option."

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