Venezuelan girl to live with Utah mother of jailed American

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 5:51 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 5:51 PM


            FILE - In this July 13, 2016 file photo, Laurie Holt holds a photograph of her son Josh Holt at her home, in Riverton, Utah. A 7-year-old Venezuelan girl has finally made it to the United States after a long fight to take her away from the turbulent South American nation where her jailed mother and American boyfriend work to recover their freedom. The jailed couple decided the girl, Nathalia Carrasco, would be better off in Utah with Holt's parents than in the shortage-stricken Venezuela. She was living with her grandmother. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this July 13, 2016 file photo, Laurie Holt holds a photograph of her son Josh Holt at her home, in Riverton, Utah. A 7-year-old Venezuelan girl has finally made it to the United States after a long fight to take her away from the turbulent South American nation where her jailed mother and American boyfriend work to recover their freedom. The jailed couple decided the girl, Nathalia Carrasco, would be better off in Utah with Holt's parents than in the shortage-stricken Venezuela. She was living with her grandmother. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

A 7-year-old Venezuelan girl has made it to the United States after a long fight to take her away from the turbulent South American nation where her jailed mother and the mom's American husband are fighting for their freedom.

The couple, Joshua Holt of Utah and Thamara Candelo of Venezuela, made the difficult decision that the girl would be better off in Utah with Holt's parents than in Venezuela, which has been stricken by severe shortages of food and medicine.

U.S. authorities say Holt and Candelo were arrested by Venezuelan police in June 2016 under trumped-up weapons charges. They are trying to get them released, though the Holts are still awaiting news on when the trial will begin.

The girl, Nathalia Carrasco, is Candelo's daughter from a previous marriage, and her father died a year ago. She had been living with her grandmother in a government housing project in the hills outside Caracas.

Laurie Holt said Wednesday that she and her husband picked up Nathalia on Saturday night at the airport in Miami in an emotional first meeting and brought her to their home outside Salt Lake City on Sunday.

"I was crying even before she walked to me. She just had the biggest grin on her face, and I couldn't wait to just hold her," Holt said. "It's like a part of Josh is here. She brought a smile to my face for the first time in a long, long time."

She said she had begun to lose hope after a year of seeking permission to bring the girl to Utah. While they waited for Venezuela's child welfare agency to grant approval, Holt and Nathalia would text each other regularly using emoticons on the WhatsApp messaging service. In the U.S., Holt is the girl's legal guardian.

Communication is challenging because the Holts don't speak Spanish and Nathalia is just learning English, so they rely on an online translating app and family members and a lawyer who speak Spanish.

"She's had us in stitches all the time," Holt said. "She makes fun of us saying things she knows we won't understand."

They have been to the mall to get some clothes and toys; Nathalia loves items from the movie "Frozen" and My Little Pony stuffed animals. She's also had a doctor's checkup that determined she's in good health. Her first day at school was Wednesday.

Holt dreams of the day her son and his wife can be reunited with Nathalia and all of them can live together in Utah. She said Nathalia had been visiting the couple in jail once a week for last 20 months.

"Even if he's not her biological father, I know she adores him and calls him papi," Holt said.

Venezuela authorities allege Joshua Holt used his wife's apartment to stockpile weapons and have linked him to unspecified attempts by the U.S. to undermine President Nicolas Maduro's rule amid deep economic and political turbulence. Holt's family says an assault rifle and a grenade found in the apartment were planted.

The case has become a major thorn in relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, which were already tense from previous U.S. administrations. The Trump administration has slapped sanctions on dozens of senior Venezuelan officials with the goal of weakening Maduro's grip on power.

The new top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela, Todd Robinson, has ratcheted up the pressure, calling it a "tragedy" that Holt has been imprisoned. The diplomat said he is holding Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza personally responsible if anything happens to Holt in jail.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah also has been working for Holt's freedom. His office on Wednesday released a photo of Holt taken last Friday during a consular visit. He's holding a letter that Hatch sent him, including words of encouragement and imploring Holt not to give up.

"I ask that you stand strong in your faith as we continue to pray on your behalf," Hatch wrote. "I am confident that this dark chapter will close and you will soon be reunited with your family."

___

Goodman reported from Bogota, Colombia.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Twitter reflects on legacy of Billy Graham after news of his death

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 10:20 AM

Billy Graham Dead at 99

People are mourning the loss of influential evangelist Billy Graham after news of his death broke early Wednesday. He was 99.

» RELATED: Evangelist Billy Graham is dead at 99

Born William Franklin Graham in North Carolina, the religious leader was known as “America’s pastor.” He also had a huge global following through his radio and television ministry, reaching millions.

Throughout his career, which spanned more than 70 years, he developed relationships with politicians and activists, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama.

As details regarding his death hit the internet, many flocked to social media to write condolences. Several said they were sad to hear about his passing.

» RELATED: Former President Jimmy Carter on death of Billy Graham

» RELATED: When Billy Graham gave his last crusade

Some praised him for his dedication and passion, while also reflecting on the lives he affected. Many called him “kind” and “amazing.”

» RELATED: Billy Graham quotes: Christianity made accessible to millions

Others chimed in with their favorite quotes from Graham. 

While a few criticized some of his preachings and political ideas, they still expressed their respect for him. 

» RELATED: Biographical details on the Rev. Billy Graham

Related

Trending - Most Read Stories

Monkey, dog live inseparable lives

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 11:44 AM

WATCH: Dog and Monkey Have Inseparable Bond

A Capuchin monkey and a dog have made an unlikely pair in Colombia.

The dog, according Reuters, recently lost her litter of pups. She then became a surrogate mother of sorts to the monkey, Reuters reported.

Now the two are the best of unusual friends, Sky News reported.

>> Read more trending news 

But their friendship may soon be forced to come to an end. 

The monkey becomes upset when anyone gets near them, so the Environmental and Ecological Protection Police took the dog and monkey and could separate them, returning the monkey to the wild, the Independent reported. But there could be a hiccup to their plan. The Independent reported that the Capuchins in the wild may not welcome the monkey into their group.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Couple who lost everything in fire wins $1 million lottery

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 11:30 AM

Tips for When You Win the Lottery

A couple in Canada can now start rebuilding their lives after they were big winners in the Atlantic Lottery.

Bill Pendergast and his wife accepted a $1 million check this month, nearly two years after their home and all their belongings were destroyed in a wildfire.

The May 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire destroyed their home, along with about 10 percent of the Alberta, Canada, town, the BBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Pendergast was recently visiting his sick father in Newfoundland, who ask him to get a soda at a store, the BBC reported. He bought a ticket at the local gas station on a whim. The next morning, he found out he was a new millionaire, CNN reported. He then called his wife, who hopped on a plane to Newfoundland to help her husband cash in on his newfound money, CNN reported.

The money, the couple said, will be used mostly to help put the pieces back together, including finishing construction on their new home, CBC reported.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

“Our rebuild should be finished in the next two to four months, so this is going to go a long way towards that,” Pendergast told CBC.

The family, including the couple’s five sons, is also going to take a family vacation, CBC reported.

But there is one thing the lucky winner always wanted that will now become a reality.

“I have always wanted a Mustang, and I will finally have one, I’m 100% sure of that,” Pendergast told CNN.

FILE PHOTO(Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Trending - Most Read Stories

London City Airport shuts down due to unexploded WWII bomb

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 1:59 PM
Updated: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 1:59 PM

London City Airport canceled all flights in and out of it after a 1,100-pound bomb was found. The WWII-era bomb was found nearby in the River Thames. The airport is situated in an area of London heavily bombed by the Germans in WWII.

All flights in and out of London City Airport were canceled Monday after a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) unexploded World War II-era bomb was found nearby in the River Thames.

The Metropolitan Police service cleared an area within 214 meters (700 feet) of the bomb, including several residential streets, as officers worked with specialists from the Royal Navy to remove the device.

Police said the bomb was discovered Sunday at the George V Dock during pre-planned work at City Airport. They described it as a 1.5-meter (5-foot) shell that was lying in a bed of dense silt.

"The first stage of the removal operation is to free the shell from the silt so that it can be floated for removal," police said in a statement.

>> Video emerges of drone flying dangerously close to plane landing in Las Vegas

Local officials offered emergency accommodations to residents and said work to remove the bomb would continue into Tuesday.

Airport CEO Robert Sinclair said he recognizes that passengers will be inconvenienced but said the airport is cooperating fully with authorities "to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."

London City, the smallest of London's international airports, handled 4.5 million passengers last year. Popular with business travelers, it's located in east London's docklands, an area that was heavily bombed during World War II.

Trending - Most Read Stories