American diplomat Bill Richardson returned to the United States unable to bring home eight American citizens imprisoned by Venezuela's Maduro regime, Reuters reported on Friday.
Richardson—the former Democratic governor of New Mexico and ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton's administration—conducted the diplomatic mission privately, upon request of the prisoners’ families.
"I am glad we were able to meet with President Maduro to discuss the potential release of the American prisoners and other COVID-19 humanitarian issues," a statement released by Richardson reads.
"We regret that we were not able to secure the release of the Americans. Our thoughts are with the families of the six Citgo executives—Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, and Jose Angel Pereira—as well as with former Green Berets Luke Denman and Airan Berry."
The six Citgo executives are imprisoned on what Washington calls "baseless" charges of embezzlement, while the two special forces veterans are detained for their role in an attempted overthrow of the Maduro regime in May.
United States envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams lambasted the decision to withhold release of the Americans. "The Department of State will continue our efforts to free them until the day when they are released," he said.
The rescue mission was attempted at a potential tipping point for the Maduro regime. Recent U.S. sanctions applied to Venezuelan oil exports, in addition to the coronavirus, have ravaged the regime.
Washington holds fast in its support of claimant to the Venezuelan presidency Juan Guaidó, opposing the weakening communist state.