Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela frees 40 jailed activists and politicians

former san cristobal mayor Daniel Ceballos greets supporters after his release Image copyright EPA
Image caption Former San Cristobal mayor Daniel Ceballos was among those freed

The Venezuelan government has released another 40 opposition politicians and activists, bringing to 79 the number of people freed in the past two days.

Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the government was reviewing other dissidents' cases. He said it was a goodwill gesture to help ease tensions.

The announcement comes after the re-election of President Nicolas Maduro to a new six-year term last month.

The opposition boycotted the poll. Many countries did not recognise the result.

Fourteen countries including Argentina, Brazil and Canada recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest.

Those released on Friday and Saturday include politicians, the son of a dissident former general, a former army general who took to the roof of his house with an assault rifle in defiance of an arrest warrant and the former mayor of the city of San Cristobal.

Many had taken part in protests against Mr Maduro in 2014 and again in 2017; about 170 people died in clashes.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many of those released had taken part in protests against Mr Maduro

Opposition leader Julio Borges tweeted that they "should never have been in prison".

"There is nothing to thank the dictatorship for," he added.

All those freed have all been banned from using social media or travelling abroad.

The opposition says about 300 people remain in jail on charges that they say are designed to stifle dissent.

Among those considered political prisoners by the opposition is one of Mr Maduro's best known critics, Leopoldo Lopez.

He was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being found guilty of incitement to violence during protests in 2014. Last year he was placed under house arrest for "health reasons" and was one of two people barred from standing against Mr Maduro in last month's election.

The US has said Mr Maduro is a "dictator" and has imposed sanctions on Venezuela. Mr Maduro says his opponents are waging an "economic war" against him.

Venezuela is five years into an economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and severe shortages in food and medicine.

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Media captionThe search for food in Venezuela