A judge ruled that 24-year-old Josh Holt, a missionary from Utah, will remain in a Venezuelan jail until a hearing in September. The country’s government is calling Holt a well-armed spy, but Holt’s mother said there is “zero” chance that the weapons allegedly found where he was staying belong to her son. Holt reportedly traveled to the South American country to marry a fellow Mormon he met online.

In many ways, politics in Venezuela increasingly resembles politics in North Korea. An authoritarian and corrupt government consolidates power as food supplies dwindle and political opponents are thrown in jail. Problems at home are blamed on a favorite external scapegoat: the United States. To be an American and travel in either country is to risk becoming an unwitting pawn in that propaganda ploy.

The latest American to be in the wrong place at the wrong time is Joshua Holt, 24, of Riverton, Utah.

To hear Venezuela’s interior minister tell it, Holt is not only an agent of U.S. intelligence but a dangerous terrorist mastermind hell-bent on destabilizing Venezuela with his uniquely American obsession with guns.

“Under different facades, the secret services of the United States are seeking to achieve goals in an unconventional war through interventionist actions that stimulate the formation of criminal paramilitary gangs in housing complexes,” Gustavo González López said in a televised address that he used to expatiate on claims about Holt’s reason for being in the country. “We won’t permit the dark interests of capitalism, backed by the criminal gangs, to suffocate the stability and peace of the country.”

News outlets in Venezuela that hew closely to the government line have called Holt “the gringo agent,” and their stories mirror González López’s in conspiratorial tone, offering the “anatomy of an infiltration.” He was arrested June 30.

Read More: Washington Post

Featured Image – A selfie taken by Joshua Holt and his wife, Thamara Caleño, in Venezuela on their honeymoon. (Courtesy of Laurie Holt) – Washington Post