Thousands Flood Caracas, Venezuela, in Anti-government Protests
CARACAS, Venezuela, May 31 (UPI) — About 3,000 Venezuelans peacefully protested in the streets of Caracas, urging for the release of all political prisoners including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
The protest lasted three hours and centered in the district of Chacao. Other demonstrations were held nationwide, including in the cities of San Cristobal in the state of Táchira and in Puerto La Cruz in the state of Anzoategui.
Protests were also held in Miami, Fla.
Lopez, the leader of the Popular Will opposition party and the former mayor of Chacao, was arrested in February 2014 on charges of inciting violent anti-government protests. Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristobal, was arrested in March 2014 on similar charges.
Lopez organized last year’s protests calling for better security, an end to food shortages and enhanced freedom of speech for citizens. About 43 people died, both government supporters and opponents, in the protests.
Lopez, Ceballos, two other prisoners, a regional deputy and six students all recently began a hunger strike.
The protest was closed by Lilian Tinori, Lopez’s wife. She called for “a day of fasting in solidarity with political prisoners,” adding that the hunger strikes will continue until the dates of the parliamentary elections are announced, all political prisoners are released and media censorship ends.
“The regime is crumbling,” Tinori said. “We must prepare for the reconstruction of the country. We have taken to the streets, we will not abandon her.”
Lopez filmed a video in his jail cell and released it last week announcing the hunger strike and urging a “massive and peaceful” demonstration.
The protesters are also calling for the release of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who was formally charged with conspiracy in April.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela’s judiciary is independent and that those imprisoned are criminals.