In this photo released by the Miraflores Presidential Press Office, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, left, shakes hands with Republican Senator Bob Corker during a meeting at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday May 25, 2018. The Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro two days after the embattled socialist leader kicked out the top U.S. diplomat in the country. There was no immediate comment from Republican Senator Bob Corker's office about the nature of the surprise visit. (Miraflores Presidential Press Office via AP)

PV International Desk : The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday, less than a week after the embattled socialist leader was re-elected in a vote the U.S. condemned and he kicked out the top American diplomat in the country.

The visit appeared to be an attempt by Sen. Bob Corker to push for the release of Joshua Holt, a U.S. citizen who has been held two years in a Caracas jail without a trial on what he has called trumped-up weapons charges.

Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, was seen live on state TV shaking hands with Maduro and being greeted by first lady Cilia Flores as he entered the presidential palace. He left an hour later, and neither the senator nor the president made any statements.

Maduro easily won a second, six-year term in Sunday’s election, which was criticized by the U.S. and other nations as a “sham” after several of his key rivals were barred from running. After his victory, Maduro expelled U.S. charge d’affaires Todd Robinson and his deputy for allegedly conspiring to sabotage the vote by pressuring opposition parties to boycott the election, which had the lowest voter turnout in decades.

Corker was accompanied by an aide, Caleb McCarry, who led backchannel talks earlier this year with a close associate of Maduro aimed at securing the release of Holt.

Holt, a 26-year-old from Utah, traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry a woman he had met online while looking for Spanish-speaking Mormons to help him improve his Spanish. He was arrested after police said they found an assault rifle and grenades during a raid on the public housing complex where the couple lived. He has denied the charge.