Utah family continues to hope for son’s release as Josh Holt spends birthday in Venezuelan prison

Posted at 9:48 PM, Apr 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-21 23:48:44-04

RIVERTON - It may seem odd to celebrate someone's birthday without them and when they're a continent away, but Riverton mom Laurie Holt considered it.

"I thought, 'lets have a cake and blow out the candles,'" a tearful Laurie Holt said. "But I don't want him to see that we're celebrating without him."

Her son Josh Holt turned 25 Friday. Instead of celebrating the special occasion with his family, he's locked up in a Venezuelan prison, accused of being an American spy.

A charge, "which is absolutely ridiculous," Holt added.

Despite warnings about his safety, Josh Holt went to Venezuela last June to marry a woman he met online six months before. Shortly after the wedding, Venezuelan police barged into the couple's apartment and arrested Holt and his wife after allegedly finding two assault rifles and a grenade.

While the government accused her son of plotting to hurt Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Laurie Holt claims her son is nothing more than a political pawn.

This week the Venezuelan government seized a General Motors plant in Venezuela, a move GM claimed was a clear violation of its legal rights. Hundreds of thousands of protesters continue to march in the streets of Venezuela this week, a familiar sight in the country over the last few months.

"It's very chaotic," Laurie Holt said. "We've been told that if the government falls, Josh will be released the very next day."

Josh Holt may not be able to open presents this year, but his mom received an unexpected gift from Washington D.C. this week. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Congresswoman Mia Love invited Holt to D.C. next week to speak in front of officials from Congress, the Senate and the Department of State.

"Hopefully, we can strategize and do something different that we’ve been trying to do and get him home," Holt said.