Meeting between John Kerry, President Maduro gives hope to family of Utahn imprisoned in Venezuela

Posted at 7:48 PM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 23:18:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY - They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the one Laurie Holt saw this week left her speechless.

"Immediately, I thought they were talking about Josh," Holt said.

The picture shows Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Columbia on Monday. It's the first meeting between the two since Kerry took over the position.

The reason it's significant is because three months ago, Holt's 24-year-old son, Josh, was arrested in Venezuela on weapons charges and faces 2 to 4 years in prison.

However, Holt says the charges are trumped up. She says her son went to Venezuela in June to marry a woman he met online six months before. The hope was to bring her and her two daughters back to the U.S. after the wedding to live in Utah.

However, a few days after the wedding, police suddenly burst into the apartment Holt as his wife were staying in and arrested the couple. Later, Holt found out they were charging him with the weapons charges after they allegedly found two assault rifles and a grenade in his closet. His mother thinks the weapons were planted.

"It just isn't fair," Holt said. "They are corrupt and do whatever they want."

The Venezuelan government and civilians are currently at odds, with many in the country trying to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power.

That fact aside, Laurie Holt has spent the past couple months reaching out to local politicians, like Congresswoman Mia Love and Senator Orrin Hatch--who have reached out to the U.S. State Department on her behalf. The culmination of those efforts resulted in the picture that Laurie Holt discovered Monday. The picture showing Secretary of State John Kerry and Maduro meeting in Columbia.

"I’m hoping he raised his case," Laurie Holt said Wednesday. "I’m hoping he asked for his release.”

During a phone call to Congresswoman Love's team on Wednesday, they confirmed that Josh Holt was brought up in the conversation, but to what extent remains unclear.

A spokesman with Senator Hatch's office said Vice President Joe Biden called Hatch Wednesday and told him they are doing all they can to secure Holt's release, and Biden said he is working in conjunction with Secretary Kerry to bring Holt home.

"Vice President Biden is going to do everything in his power to see Josh Holt released as soon as possible," Hatch's office stated.

A spokesman for Hatch's office said Hatch and Biden have been friends for many years, and that Hatch felt very "reassured" after his conversation with Biden Wednesday and is grateful for the Vice President's involvement in the case.

Meanwhile, Laurie Holt said she spoke to representatives from the U.S. State Department on Wednesday, and she said they assured her they are doing everything they can to free Josh.