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Riots reported at Venezuelan jail holding Utah man

VENEZUELA — A former LDS Missionary who grew up in Riverton made a plea for help on Facebook Wednesday, as he claimed the Venezuelan jail he’s being held in has fallen in riots, and people are trying to kill him.

In two videos posted on his Facebook page,  Josh Holt begged the U.S. Government to get him out of the Venezuelan jail he’s been held in for the last two years.

“I need your help to get me out of this place,” Holt said, “Now my life is threatened. How long do I have to suffer here? How long do my kids have to go asking for Mommy and Daddy?”

In a message posted right after those videos, Holt said the jail is under attack and people have threatened his life.

“Helicoide the prison where I am at has fallen the guards are here and people.are trying to break in my room and kill me. WHAT DO WE DO?” Holt wrote, “People here are dying we need help please send me help please send people to save me.”

Within about an hour of the post, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office confirmed that he heard the reports and was working to verify them.

“Senator Hatch has been aware of Josh’s situation throughout the day and been in communication with Josh’s family, the Trump administration, and contacts in Venezuela,” Hatch’s office said in a statement. “He remains focused on Josh’s safety as we work to bring him home on humanitarian grounds.”

Rep. Mia Love’s office also responded, saying that her team has been able to confirm the jail holding Joshua Holt, is being threatened by riots and violence.

“I am extremely concerned about this situation, but have been assured that Josh is safe at this time,” Love said in a written statement.”Immediately upon hearing what happened, I responded to his heartbreaking pleas for help with a personal phone call to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  I am also in contact with the White House, the NSC (National Security Council), and the State Department.   It is time for the State Department to quickly produce a plan of action in order to resolve this situation once and for all.”

Roughly two hours after Holt’s Facebook pleas, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas also released a statement on Twitter.

Translated from Spanish, the statement says roughly, “Very worried for Josh Holt and other Americans held at the prison. Venezuela and its government is responsible for the safety of Josh Holt and other Americans and will be held responsible if something happens to them. We call on the government that they free him for humanitarian reasons.”

Holt was arrested in Venezuela on June 30, 2016, after local officials say they caught the man stashing assault rifles and grenades while plotting to undermine the President, Nicolas Maduro. His family claims Holt was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Holt’s wife, Teresa Calena, was also arrested but is being held in a different jail.

For months, Hatch’s office has confirmed they’ve been working with the Venezuelan government to release Holt. The State Department issued a call for Holt’s release last November over concern about his health. The department claimed Holt had also been barred from scheduled court appearances.

The pressure to release the man increased again last December, after word that Holt became sick in the jail and was denied hospital care.