At Monday’s White House press conference, the Biden administration's spokeswoman Jen Psaki made an effort to distinguish discussions surrounding energy security with Venezuelan officials as a "separate path" from talking about the health and well-being of US citizens detained there.
It was back on Saturday that senior members of the Biden administration went to Caracas to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. When asked about it, Psaki's response distanced the topic from the notion that US citizens would be any kind of "bargaining chip" in exchange for easing US oil sanctions on Venezuela.
"Going back to Venezuela for a second: Would they have to agree to release the US citizens in prison there, if the US were to ease the current sanctions on oil exports?" asked one reporter in the White House briefing room.
Psaki responded to the member of the press: "So that's a really important question. There are different channels, and obviously we're going to continue to do everything we can to bring anyone who is detained in Venezuela or any other part of the world home. But they happen through different tracks. They're all a part of the conversation with Venezuela writ large, but not at the same time."
Politico reported that the Biden administration is working to guarantee freedom for a number of detained Americans, including three former US service members.
The former Trump White House had recognized Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president against Maduro in a 2019 election, while also ushering sanctions against Venezuelan oil. There were certain activities in the aftermath of the former presidency's move that led to the arrest of a number of Americans.
The dominating conversation in the mainstream media currently is how the Biden White House was opening up channels with Venezuela, as well as Iran and Saudi Arabia, now that Russian oil is under scrutiny given the Biden administration's widespread sanctions on the energy superpower amidst the war in Ukraine.
All the meanwhile, Americans are now facing record high gas prices as the national average passed $4 over the weekend, for the first time since 2008. Former Star Trek actor George Takei urged the American public to put up with these higher prices as it's a "patriotic donation" in the fight against Russia's Putin.