Amid US outreach, Venezuela jails 3 Americans

In this photo provided by the Kenemore family, Jerrel Kenemore stands at a Colombian checkpoint in the middle of the Simon Bolivar international bridge connecting San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela with Villa del Rosario, Colombia, the second week of March 2022. Kenemore, from the Dallas area, is one of at least three American citizens who were quietly arrested in 2022 allegedly trying to enter Venezuela illegally and are being held at a maximum security prison facing long sentences, The Associated Press has learned. (Kenemore family via AP) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Three Americans were quietly jailed in Venezuela earlier this year for allegedly trying to enter the country illegally and now face long prison sentences in the politically turbulent nation, The Associated Press has learned.

(AP).- None of the arrests have previously been reported. Two of the men — a lawyer from California and a computer programmer from Texas — were arrested in late March, just days after President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government freed two other Americans.

Venezuelan security forces nabbed lawyer Eyvin Hernandez, 44, and computer programmer Jerrel Kenemore, 52, in separate incidents in the western state of Tachira, according to a person familiar with investigations into the arrests. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the cases publicly.

Hernandez is from Los Angeles; Kenemore is from the Dallas area, but had lived in Colombia since 2019.

A third American was arrested in January, also for allegedly entering the country illegally along its lengthy border with Colombia. AP is withholding his name at the request of his family.

At least eight more Americans — including five oil executives and three veterans — remain imprisoned in Venezuela, and U.S. officials insist they are being used as political bargaining chips.

The latest arrests come amid efforts by the Biden administration to unwind the Trump-era policy of punishing Maduro for what they consider his trampling on Venezuela’s democracy. Instead, Biden officials are trying to lure him back into negotiations with the U.S.-backed opposition to pave the way for free and fair elections.

As part of that still-early outreach, the U.S. has dangled the possibility of easing sanctions on the OPEC nation — a move that, over time, could also help lower oil prices, which spiked following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The release of two Americans on March 8 was celebrated in Washington, giving a boost to the Biden administration’s outreach to Maduro. It’s not clear what impact, if any, the jailing of three more Americans will have on relations with Maduro, a close ally of Russia whom the U.S. has sanctioned and indicted on narcotics charges.

The Yucatan Times
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