American Veteran Matthew Heath- Prisoner in Venezuela Since 2020

Faye Higbee

On May 4, 2020, a handful of people from Silvercorp attempted to initiate a coup against Nicholas Maduro, as we previously reported. They failed and were arrested by thugs from Maduro’s regime. Unfortunately, because there were rumors that there might have been more people involved in the coup attempt, an American Marine veteran named Matthew Heath was snapped up in the aftermath four months later. He’s been imprisoned there ever since, charged with terrorism and espionage. Last Saturday, he tried unsuccessfully to end his life. He is in a military hospital in Caracas.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

“His arrest was totally arbitrary — and that took place almost two years ago, and since then the ill treatment has not ceased. He is currently being subjected to psychological . . . torture, which can be more devastating to the person than the physical torture. And he is overwhelmed by the overall injustice of his case, and the fact that his trial is now at a standstill because the witnesses against him are now refusing to testify.”

human rights activist Tamara Suju, part of Heath’s defense team

The witnesses against him are afraid to testify, fearful they may be outed as intelligence operatives who manufactured the case against him, according to Stripes. The ill-fated adventure that he set upon with his boat the “Purple Dream” and the two man crew with him in September of 2020 has been more of a nightmare than a dream, according the The Ledger. The police in Venezuela have made claims that he was in possession of explosives and guns, which his family strongly disputes (you can read at the Ledger link).

Though the State Department says the charges were “specious” and that they are monitoring his condition, the family says they have done little to get him released. Family members stated that they learned of Heath’s suicide attempt through “private channels” not from the US government. Because of the lack of forward momentum, the family reached out to former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who had been actively working to free unjustly imprisoned Americans worldwide.

“Matthew’s life is in imminent danger, and we don’t detect any urgency at all from the White House. We are frustrated with the pattern of ‘deciding not to decide’ at the White House, endless policy reviews, and empty platitudes about his case being a priority.”

Trudy Rutherford, Heath’s aunt (Stripes)

For its part, the State Department issued a press release on the matter:

“Today marks 500 days since the Maduro regime wrongfully detained U.S. citizen and Marine veteran Matthew Heath. Matthew was arrested in September 2020 on specious charges, and his trial is still ongoing. We continue to seek his unconditional return and the release of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained overseas, and Secretary (Antony) Blinken is relentlessly pursuing Matthew’s release. To the Maduro regime officials who have imprisoned him, we call for him to be allowed to return to the United States so that he can reunite with his family.”

State Department release, January 21, 2022

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Featured screenshot of Matthew Heath aboard “The Purple Dream” via the Miami Herald

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