Venezuela releases 39 jailed activists

Authorities say move fulfilled a promise made by President Nicolas Maduro before controversial May 20 election.

Venezuela''s President Nicolas Maduro attends a meeting with banks and financial institutions representatives at Miraflores Palace in Caracas
Maduro won a second-term re-election in the May 20 contested election [Reuters]

Dozens of jailed opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, including a former mayor of the city of San Cristobal, will be released, authorities have announced.

Delcy Rodriguez, the leader of the pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly, announced on Friday the move fulfilled a promise made by Maduro in advance of the country’s controversial May 20 election.

Rodriguez said the jailed activists will be freed in groups because “due to [logistics] it is not possible to release everyone on the same day”.

Overall, 39 opposition activists will be released, according to Maikel Moreno, Venezuela’s supreme court head.

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is not among those released.

Maduro, who secured 68 percent in a poll marred by low turnout and a boycott by the mainstream opposition, had said after being re-elected that he wanted to reconcile the fractured nation.

The Venezuelan “government is greatly ready for a frank, sincere and constructive dialogue”, Maduro said in a tweet early on Friday before the announcement.

“The doors are open for those who choose the path of peace and reconciliation.”

The issue of the prisoners has been a sticking point during reconciliation talks, and opposition leader Lady Gomez said discussions with Maduro on Thursday were focused on ending political persecution.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab confirmed on Friday that the releases will take in the next few hours, describing the list of prisoners as “broad and representative”.

Ex-Army General Angel Vivas, one of the first to be released, is helped as he arrives for a meeting with a truth commission in Caracas [Ariana Cubillos/AP]
Ex-Army General Angel Vivas, one of the first to be released, is helped as he arrives for a meeting with a truth commission in Caracas [Ariana Cubillos/AP]

Rebellion and illegal association

Among those already released is Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristobal, an opposition stronghold.

Caballos was first arrested in March 2014, then moved to house arrest and sent back to prison in 2016. He stood accused of inciting violence – charges he denied.

While released, Ceballos cannot leave Venezuela and he is banned from talking to the media or commenting on social media, according to the court.

Under Maduro, Venezuela is going through the worst economic crisis in its history.

Hyperinflation has crippled the country, leading to shortages of food and medicine. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Venezuela to escape the growing deprivation.

According to rights group Foro Penal, there are about 350 political prisoners in Venezuela – a figure the Maduro government disputes.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies