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U.S. to Release Ally of Venezuelan President in Exchange for 10 Americans

The United States has agreed to release a close ally of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela in exchange for 10 jailed Americans, including six designated as wrongfully detained, White House officials said on Wednesday.

Alex Saab, who has been accused by the United States of “profiting from starvation” of Venezuelans, is a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Mr. Maduro. He was indicted in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme that siphoned an estimated $350 million from a Venezuelan government housing project.

The White House officials declined to reveal details about the 10 Americans, but they said the exchange means that all of the Americans believed to be wrongfully detained in Venezuela now have been released.

As a part of the agreement, Venezuela also agreed to extradite Leonard Glenn Francis, a former defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard” who is at the center of one of the U.S. Navy’s largest corruption cases. Mr. Maduro will also release 20 Venezuelan political prisoners from custody, White House officials said.

The prisoner exchange comes as the Biden administration tries to improve relations with the authoritarian government in Caracas. The United States recently restarted deportation flights to Venezuela and agreed to lift some sanctions after the Maduro administration agreed to take tentative steps toward free and fair elections.

“It looks like Maduro, so far, is keeping his commitment on a free election,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Wednesday. “But it ain’t done yet. We’ve got a long way to go. But it’s good so far.”

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