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Utah Mormon jailed in Venezuela says he's accused of being U.S. spy

By Andrew V. Pestano
Newlyweds Josh Holt and Thamara Caleno Candelo were arrested by Venezuelan authorities on weapons charges. Holt penned a letter in which he said he is being portrayed as being a U.S. spy who was sent to destabilize the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Photo courtesy of JusticeforJosh
Newlyweds Josh Holt and Thamara Caleno Candelo were arrested by Venezuelan authorities on weapons charges. Holt penned a letter in which he said he is being portrayed as being a U.S. spy who was sent to destabilize the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Photo courtesy of JusticeforJosh

CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Josh Holt, a 24-year-old newlywed Utah native imprisoned in Venezuela, said he is accused of being a U.S. spy attempting to destabilize President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government.

In a letter he wrote that was recently revealed by his mother, Laurie Moon Holt, Holt -- who recently completed a two-year religious mission with the Mormon Church -- said the pro-government media in Venezuela portrays him as "el agente gringo" -- or the "American agent."

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Holt was linked to the death of Omar Jesus Molina Marin, an official with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the country's ruling party founded by Hugo Chavez and currently run by Maduro. Marin was found dead on April 11 with multiple bullet wounds.

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Venezuela's former Interior Minister, Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez, said Holt and his new wife, Thamara Caleno Candelo, had a cache of weapons, strategic maps and computer equipment to carry out terrorist acts. The couple was arrested June 30.

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In the letter, Holt said he is being accused of pretending to be a man in love to carry out destabilization efforts. Caleno Candelo previously said Venezuelan secret police planted a grenade and a gun in their apartment.

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"I have been told by 10 or 20 people, prisoners, and guards, that I am here because I am American," Holt wrote. "I have also been told by guards that Americans have no rights here."

On Wednesday, the Venezuelan judge presiding in Holt's case ruled that Holt and Caleno Candelo will remain imprisoned until a hearing scheduled for Sept. 15.

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"It's hard to express the feeling I felt yesterday, as my lawyer told me that we were accused and would have to stay until the 15th of September. My heart was broken as she tells me that we need more help and support from my government," Holt wrote in the letter. "When it comes to taking my money, my government becomes an expert and never fails, but when it comes to saving my life, they abandon me and say there is nothing they can do."

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Holt said he sees his wife once a day when he fills up his designated bottle of water. He gives her a kiss and tells her that he loves her and that they will be reunited soon.

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"I have never spent so many nights crying myself to sleep wondering why God is allowing this to happen to me and my family," Holt said.

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Amy R. Connolly contributed to this report.

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