Venezuela releases 7 jailed Americans; U.S. frees 2 prisoners

In a rare softening of hostile relations, Venezuela has freed seven imprisoned Americans in exchange for the United States releasing two nephews of President Nicolás Maduro’s wife who had been jailed for years on drug smuggling conspiracy convictions, the White House said Saturday.

The swap of the Americans, including five oil executives held for nearly five years, follows months of back channel diplomacy by Washington’s top hostage negotiator and other U.S. officials — secretive talks with a major oil producer that took on greater urgency after sanctions on Russia put pressure on global energy prices.

The deal amounts to an unusual gesture of goodwill by Maduro as the socialist leader looks to rebuild relations with the U.S. after vanquishing most

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