Family and friends of Josh Holt gathered Monday night at the Salt Lake International Airport to welcome home the Riverton, Utah resident. Holt arrived to the United States on Saturday, the same day he was released from a Venezuelan prison where he spent two years without a trial.
As Holt came down an escalator at the airport his supporters cheered and sang the national anthem. Family and friends held lime-green signs and balloons to greet him with his favorite color.
Holt said he couldn’t take any questions from the packed crowd of reporters and friends after several sleepless days of transit from Caracas to Washington D.C. to Salt Lake City, but he thanked visitors.
"We’re grateful to be here," Holt said. "We’re grateful to finally be around our families and once again we thank you all and we love you all and may God bless all of you."
Holt and his wife Thamy – who were married in Venezuela having met online - were imprisoned after the Venezuelan government accused them of stockpiling weapons. The couple did not stand trial.
The Holts' release comes during a period of rising tension between the United States and Venezuela. After President Nicolas Maduro's recent re-election, which was widely criticized as being undemocratic, the Trump administration placed new sanctions on the South American country. That resulted in the expulsion of several American diplomats in the past week.
Utah Congressional Representative Mia Love was at the airport when Holt and his wife arrived. She said his release also coincided with a time of major economic instability in Venezuela.
"You've got [a] regime that is holding onto power. You've got people that are absolutely desperate. They're starving. The communication is completely inconsistent," Love said, adding that all of those factors made it difficult to negotiate Holt's freedom.
From the airport the Holts returned to Riverton.