Latin America

Venezuela files new criminal charges against jailed former mayor

Daniel Ceballos ordered to be held in prison just before he was due for release

Members of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard fire tear gas at protestors during nationwide demonstrations last year.
Members of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard fire tear gas at protestors during nationwide demonstrations last year.SANTI DONAIRE (EFE)

Just hours after a Venezuelan court ordered the release of a high-profile opposition mayor, judicial authorities on Thursday called for Daniel Ceballos to be kept in prison to face another trial on conspiracy charges.

Ceballos, who is the former mayor of the Andean city of San Cristóbal, was arrested in February 2014 by the government for failing to stop protestors from blocking streets during nationwide protests that took place earlier that month.

Ceballos was arrested for failing to lift street blockades during nationwide protests in February 2014

Ceballos is part of a group of high-profile prisoners – including opposition leader Leopoldo López and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma – who are being held at the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas.

President Nicolás Maduro publicly accused Ceballos, who is a member of López’s People’s Will (VP) party, and Enzo Scarano, another former mayor of San Diego – a suburb in Valencia, Carabobo state – of not only supporting the protests but also fomenting violence against his government.

Prosecutors said Thursday night that Ceballos will have to face another trial for conspiracy and rebellion.

As part of his strategy to quell the protests and file charges against opposition mayors, the Maduro government in March 2014 asked the Supreme Court to order mayors of cities where the demonstrations were taking place to remove street barriers and blockades.

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The top court gave the mayors a deadline to comply with the order, but after that period passed, blockades were still located throughout the streets of San Cristóbal and San Diego.

After Ceballos was arrested and removed from office, mayoral elections in San Cristóbal were held in May 2014 in which his wife, Particia Gutiérrez, won the race. She was backed by López’s VP coalition and other opposition groups.

Ceballos was taken to jail on March 25, 2014 to serve his 12-month sentence. He was to be released on Wednesday until prosecutors announced that they had filed additional charges against him.

A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday but the government’s main witness, José Vielma, the governor of Táchira state and a former military official and ex-minister under the late President Hugo Chávez, failed to appear.

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