Venezuela opposition march draws thousands

Image source, EPA
Image caption, Most of the demonstrators wore white as a symbol of peace

Thousands of Venezuelans have held a peaceful march through the streets of the capital Caracas, calling for the release of opposition leaders who have been in jail for more than a year.

They include two former mayors, Leopoldo Lopez and Daniel Ceballos, who are being held on charges of inciting anti-government protests last year.

President Nicolas Maduro has blamed them for the 43 deaths that resulted.

Both men started hunger strikes this week in jail.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, The marchers held up photographs of their leaders in prison uniform

The protesters were also calling for the release of the former Caracas mayor, Antonio Ledezma.

Smaller demonstrations took place in other cities.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, Lilian Tintori (second from right), wife of Leopoldo Lopez, led the march in Caracas
Image source, Reuters
Image caption, Former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga (top right) was at the march with Patricia Ceballos, the wife of former mayor Daniel Ceballos. She had cut her hair off in protest at her husband's imprisonment
Image source, Reuters
Image caption, Around 3,000 protestors demonstrated in Caracas

On Friday, Venezuela blocked two former Latin American presidents from visiting Mr Lopez and Mr Ceballos.

Leopoldo Lopez has been held at the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas since he was arrested in February 2014 on charges of inciting the violence that led to the deaths of 43 people and wounded hundreds of Venezuelans who took to the streets.

Mr Lopez filmed a video in jail this week urging demonstrators to go out "peacefully" to demand an end to political persecution and censorship and for a date to be set for upcoming legislative elections.

President Maduro has said his country's judiciary is independent and that those in jail are criminals.

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