By Tom Clancy and Jessica Mauboy
KIRSTEN, Minn. — The specter of six Americans imprisoned in Venezuela fuels a tense standoff between the U.S. and President Nicolas Maduro.
But so many months after Washington accused the socialist Maduro of secretly detaining the Americans, it’s unclear what concrete results the Trump administration has achieved to secure their freedom.
To understand this story, The Daily Signal obtained footage taken secretly by an undercover reporter in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which is sending six U.S. oil executives to Venezuela and coordinating a relief effort with Maduro’s military.
The grainy photos show what appears to be a luxury gym, a private residence and a collection of American artwork on the wall. The surreal scene will intrigue pundits and aid relief workers alike.
The diplomats don’t appear to be paid, but they are operating freely on Venezuelan soil, and have traveled extensively in the country to help establish a long-term presence.
Perhaps the most important of the U.S. nationals is Victoria Arcos, a de facto U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.
The retired Air Force colonel told The Daily Signal earlier this year that the six executives’ “re-conversion” to an imperial American vision for Latin America had offered the opportunity to prove “U.S. diplomats can get things done.”
Arcos is the daughter of the Venezuelan-born ambassador to the U.N., Jorge Arreaza, and a defense ambassador to Latin America. She also served as an aide to Barack Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry and as a principal at the powerful DLA Piper law firm.
The photo shows her posing outside of a home in the affluent Las Mercedes district of Caracas. Officials there said the contents inside came from the house of a wealthy Venezuelan-born U.S. businessman.
Colleagues said Arcos has made the trip at least twice a year since 2014.
But the series of U.S. diplomats making unauthorized trips to Venezuela without state Department approval, coupled with the lack of on-the-ground evidence to support Arcos’ claims, has been difficult to discern from the outside.
The U.S. State Department has declined to answer basic questions about the officials’ identity and every time they leave for Venezuela they wear a special protective suit.
This article was written by Tom Clancy and Jessica Mauboy and originally published by The Daily Signal. Tom Clancy is host of The Tommy Clancy Show on HDNet and co-host of POLITICO Pro’s Intelligence Roundtable. Follow him on Twitter at @TomClancyTD. Jessica Mauboy, a Canadian actress, is an expert on international affairs and terrorism. Follow her on Twitter at @ JessicaMauboy.