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Good offices Swiss facilitate release of US citizen in Venezuelan prison

Foreign Minister Cassis and US ambassador McMullen

In April, Swiss Foreign Minister Cassis (left) and the US ambassador to Switzerland, Edward McMullen, signed a mandate for consular and diplomatic services. But Venezuela has not given the necessary approval.

(© Keystone/Alessandro Della Valle)

The Swiss foreign ministry has confirmed its involvement in the release of a United States citizen Todd Leininger from a prison in Venezuela in April.

A foreign ministry spokesman is quoted as saying that Switzerland provided “certain services” as part of its humanitarian policy to secure the release of Leininger according to a report in the Wednesday edition of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper.

US media reported that Leininger was taken to the Swiss embassy in Caracas and then to a hotel before he left Venezuela. The US state department and members of Congress were apparently also involved in the effort.

Leininger served a prison sentence in Venezuela for alleged arms smuggling and attempted manslaughter in 2014.

Washington has been trying to win the release of more than a dozen US citizens held in Venezuela, but it can’t provide any consular protection since both countries broke off diplomatic relations at the beginning of the year amid a power struggle between President Nicolás Maduro and the main opposition leader, Juan Guaidó.

Switzerland has offered its good offices to keep the lines of communication open, but Venezuela has not yet responded to the request.

Switzerland has also acted as an intermediary between the US and Iran since 1980 after the cessation of diplomatic relations between the two countries and also held long-running mandates as protecting power in the conflict between the US and Cuba until 2015.

Good offices Messenger, not mediator: Switzerland in Venezuela

Switzerland has agreed to represent the interests of the US in Venezuela. Former top Swiss diplomat Tim Guldimann gives some analysis.

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