The following day, Mr. Maduro expelled the two top diplomats at the United States Embassy in Caracas, accusing them of conspiracies against Mr. Maduro’s government.
In addition to the gesture to the United States with the release of Mr. Holt, there were indications Mr. Maduro was loosening his hold on some Venezuelan prisoners as well.
Earlier in the week, in a speech before the country’s Constituent Assembly, Mr. Maduro told officials that many who took part in protests last year and had committed “political violence” still remained behind bars, something he wanted to change.
“I want these people to go free — and that they’re offered a chance for national reconciliation,” he said.
Alfredo Romero, the head of a group that represents Venezuelan political prisoners, said at least 20 people were released Friday in the state of Zulia, after protesting there earlier this year over a lack of electricity.
Omar Mora, a Venezuelan lawyer representing political prisoners, said the recent releases sidestepped the fate of the more than 450 politicians and activists, by his count, who remain jailed because the government continues to see them as a threat.
“The government pretends to release people, and in the end it doesn’t release any of the political prisoners who are on our lists,” Mr. Mora said.