In a dramatic jailhouse video, Josh Holt, the former Mormon missionary from Utah who has been detained in Venezuela since 2016, called on his countrymen to help him and said that his life was in danger.
In a brief video that emerged Wednesday from the Caracas prison where he’s being held, Holt speaks directly into the camera.
“I’m calling on the people of America, I need your help to get me out of this place,” he says. “I have been begging my government for two years. They say they are doing things, but I’m still here and now my life is being threatened. How long do I have to suffer here?”
The video emerged amid reports of disturbances inside the Helicoide prison where Holt is being held, along with other high-profile political prisoners.
"We're very worried about the riot inside the Helicoide," the U.S. Embassy in Caracas said on its Twitter account. "Joshua Holt and other U.S. citizens are in danger. The government of Venezuela is directly responsible for their security, and we will hold them responsible if something happens."
Also on Wednesday, Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristobal who has been detained since 2014 and was moved to the Helicoide in 2016, said prisoners were being murdered and tortured in the prison and he called on authorities to investigate the situation.
“We’re determined to resist, including with our lives, so that we can be heard and people will see what’s happening in the dungeons of this dictatorship,” Ceballos tells a camera, as he’s surrounded by other men. “We’re tired of them killing and torturing people.”
In a second video, Holt is seen with Ceballos and two other political prisoners. He says the Venezuelan government is holding them "hostage" and said none of the men have gone to trial, despite being held for years.
Holt was arrested in Caracas on June 30, 2016, on charges of hiding two automatic rifles and a hand grenade at the home he was sharing with his new bride, Thamara Caleño, and her children.
Holt’s lawyers and family say he’s innocent. And an eyewitness to his arrest told the Miami Herald that he was framed — that the weapons were planted by police.
The Trump administration has called Holt’s release a priority, but Caracas and Washington have been at odds for years and haven’t exchanged ambassadors since 2010.
Venezuela is holding presidential elections Sunday in a race that the United States, the European Union and others have said they will not recognize.
Despite his low approval ratings, President Nicolás Maduro is expected to win a new six-year term, as the major opposition parties have called for a boycott, hurting the chances of Maduro’s main rival, former Lara State Governor Henri Falcón.
Just days before he was arrested, Holt had married Caleño. The couple planned to move back to the United States along with her two young children. Caleño is also being held and both are awaiting trial.
“How long do I have to suffer here?” Holt asks in the video. “How long do my kids have to go asking for their mom and dad?”