‘So much gratitude’: Americans freed by Venezuela in US prisoner swap land in Texas

U.S. citizens imprisoned in Venezuela pose for pictures upon arrival at Joint Base San Antonio Kelly Annex in San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 20, 2023, after being freed amid a prisoner swap deal between the United States and Venezuela. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images)

(SAN ANTONIO) — Six of the 10 Americans who were released in the United States prisoner swap with Venezuela landed at an Airforce base in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday night.

When asked by a pool reporter how it felt to be back on American soil, Savoi Wright quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Free at last, free at last … Thank God Almighty, free at last,” Wright said to the reporter.

Wright told the pool reporter it “was very emotional,” and that he was extremely grateful to be coming home so soon.

“So much gratitude for the moment, for the United States of America and for the opportunity to come home,” he said.

“To come home so soon, so many people abroad are being held captive … to be able to come back home in a very fast manner, but to come back, to see such warm faces, so much love, I’m just very grateful,” Wright said.

Wright’s family said in a statement that they are “relieved that this ordeal has ended” and “forever grateful” for the efforts to secure his release from his Oct. 24 arrest.

Eyvin Hernandez, who the State Dept. said was “wrongfully detained,” said prison was the “most difficult thing” he had ever been through,

“I am incredibly grateful; I can’t even speak; I am incredibly grateful to be home. To my family, to my friends, to President Biden,” he said.

“Honestly, all you think about in prison is how you didn’t appreciate being free while you were free, there’s no way to understand what it’s like to be in prison unjustly and not have any way out … so it’s been a long time coming,” Hernandez continued.

Hernandez’s family called his release “an early Christmas present” in a statement Wednesday morning.

Hernandez, Jerrel Kenemore and Joseph Cristella were charged with illegally crossing the border into Venezuela from Colombia in 2022. The details surrounding their arrests remain unclear. Even less is known about the circumstances surrounding Wright’s arrest, which occurred in late October. Venezuelan officials have not spoken publicly about the allegations against him.

All six Americans were being transported for medical evaluations.

As part of the deal, the White House said that Venezuela has also allowed notorious fugitive Francis or “Fat Leonard,” the mastermind behind the worst corruption scheme in the history of the U.S. Navy, to be taken into U.S. custody, and that Venezuela will release a high-profile member of the country’s opposition party charged with treason, free another 20 political prisoners as well as suspend arrest warrants for other opponents to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro’s ally, Alex Saab, is the only Venezuelan released by the U.S. in the exchange. Saab was arrested for money laundering in 2020 and had been awaiting trial.

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