US diplomat meets Venezuela FM over detained American

Caracas (AFP) –


The top diplomat at the United States' embassy in Venezuela briefly met with that country's foreign minister on Thursday to "press" for the release of an American man detained since June 2016, the mission said in a statement.

Charge d'affaires Todd Robinson had a "frank" discussion with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza for 20 minutes, in which he asked for Joshua Holt, a 25-year-old Mormon missionary from the US state of Utah, to be freed, the statement said without giving further details.

Holt was arrested by Venezuelan intelligence officers on June 30, 2016 at his home on the outskirts of Caracas.

He is being held in the headquarters of the SEBIN intelligence agency under accusations of possessing weapons, being a spy and plotting against President Nicolas Maduro.

His family, which rejects the charges, says Holt's health has deteriorated in captivity.

His detention is one of several thorny issues festering between the United States and Venezuela.

Relations between the two nations have long been fraught and have worsened as US President Donald Trump's government has ratcheted up sanctions on Maduro, whose tightening grip on power has seen him criticized as a "dictator."

Venezuela and the US have not had ambassadors in the other country since 2010.