By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
CARACAS, VENEZUELA—The Venezuelan government released several political prisoners from the Helicoide prison. Among the political prisoners released included former opposition presidential candidate. The release of the prisoners comes as talks mediated by the Vatican continue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.
The political prisoners released included former 2006 opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales who was detained and imprisoned in October 2015 for illicit enrichment upon his return from exile in Peru. He is the leader of the Venezuelan political party “A New Era.” Mr. Rosales will continue in house arrest until trial. In addition to his release five other activists belonging to the opposition were released. The prisoners included, Nixón Leal, Yeimi Varela, Skarlyn Duarte, Gerardo Carrero and Ángel Contrera who were all detained during a violent barricade protest in 2014. The released prisoners will not be able to leave Venezuela and will report to a parole officer. Furthermore, opposition journalist and owner of Venezuelan media outlet “6 to Poder”, Leocenis García was released after being detained in 2013 for tax fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.
Their release comes after the opposition demanded the Venezuelan government to release political prisoners. The opposition claimed that they will not attend the following mediation talks on January 13 until 100 political prisoners are released and a new board to the government-controlled electoral council is put in place. Alfredo Romero, executive director of Foro Penal, a group that defends jailed activist stated, “Without a doubt, Venezuela is living a deep social crisis and these releases in some way are an escape valve that takes some pressure, especially international, off Maduro. But it is important to remember that in 2016 there 55 people jailed and only 43 released.”
Most recently, ex- Venezuelan Prisoner, Francisco Marquez, was released in October 2016 after being detained on his way to obtain signatures for the recall referendum against president Maduro. He stated that “people need to know that Venezuela is a country that systematically tortures its political and common prisoners.” He recounted his time in prison, although he was never tortured, he recounted the torture of other prisoners.
For more information, please see: