Venezuela releases two imprisoned Americans after diplomatic talks

Meeting with oil-rich country came amid US sanctions on Russian energy sources

Joe Biden announces ban on Russian oil imports

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Venezuela has released two imprisoned Americans in the wake of diplomatic talks between the country’s authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro and a US delegation.

American officials say that the prisoner release was not tied to any deal to restart oil sales from Venezuela, Russia’s strongest ally in the region, reported The New York Times.

The released Americans are Gustavo Cárdenas, an executive at the American branch of Venezuela’s state oil company, and Jorge Alberto Fernández, a US official told the newspaper.

Lawyers for Mr Fernández, a Cuban American, say he was accused of terrorism for bringing a drone into the country in February 2021.

The talks with Venezuela, which has huge oil reserves, came amid US and allied sanctions on Russia following Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine.

Joe Biden announced on Tuesday a ban on the imports of Russian gas and oil as domestic prices at the pumps hit record levels amid a fear of supply issues.

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline reached $4.173 on Tuesday, breaking the previous high of $4.114 from July 2008, according to the AAA.

“This is a step that we’re taking to inflict further pain on Putin, but there will be costs as well here in the United States,” Mr Biden said of the Russian oil ban.

There are at least eight other US nationals behind bars in Venezuela on charges ranging from terrorism to embezzlement, according to The New York Times.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki previously described the purpose of the talks as discussing “energy security” and the jailed Americans.

Mr Maduro had described the talks as “respectful, cordial, very diplomatic” and said that the they would continue.

“Here lies the oil of Venezuela, which is available for whomever wants to produce and buy it, be it an investor from Asia, Europe or the United States,” the country’s president said last week.

Venezuela’s oil exports were banned under the Trump administration because of human rights abuses in the country.

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