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Ex-Mormon missionary from Utah jailed in Venezuela says he’s not doing well

BOGOTA, Colombia — In a jailhouse audio recording released Monday, Josh Holt — the former Mormon missionary from Utah who has been detained in Venezuela for more than a year — sounds weak and frightened.

“I’m very dizzy and I can’t think and my stomach hurts,” he says in the 40-second voicemail message received by his parents. “It hurts bad, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve never felt like this before.”

Alarmed by the new recording, Holt’s family on Monday pleaded with the administration in Caracas to release him.

“Josh Holt is in a delicate state and therefore we ask again that Venezuela releases him under humanitarian grounds immediately,” the family said in a statement. “Our leaders in the U.S. Government (should) double their efforts in bringing him home before it’s too late.”

Holt’s family and the U.S. State Department have said they fear Holt’s health is being neglected by prison authorities.

“We remain extremely concerned for his health and his well-being,” Heather Nauert, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said last week in a briefing. “The decline in his health has been further exacerbated by the Venezuelan authorities’ delays in providing necessary medical treatment. Sometimes they have blocked his care altogether.”

In June, his mother, Laurie Moon Holt, said her son had shed 50 pounds and was losing his hair due to stress.

Holt was arrested in Caracas on June 30, 2016, on charges of hiding two automatic rifles and a hand grenade at the home he was sharing with his new wife, Thamara Caleno, and her children.

Holt’s lawyers and family say he’s innocent. And an eyewitness to his arrest says he was framed — that the weapons were planted by police.

Holt is being held in the Helicoide, a Caracas jail that is usually reserved for high-profile prisoners.

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