Latin America

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López ends his hunger strike

Jailed ex-mayor says president has met his demand to hold parliamentary races this year

Protest held in Venezuela to demand the release of all political prisoners.
Protest held in Venezuela to demand the release of all political prisoners.F. PARRA (AFP)

Jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López ended his 30-day hunger strike on Tuesday just hours after the Venezuelan government announced that it would schedule parliamentary elections on December 6, his wife Lilian Tintori said.

Holding a letter written by her husband in his jail cell and entitled “Change has a date,” Tintori said that López decided to end his hunger strike because one of his main objectives had been accomplished: the scheduling of elections.

President Nicolás Maduro has ignored calls by global leaders for López’s immediate release

Other members of López’s Voluntad Popular party had joined the hunger strike.

“To you my brothers and sisters I ask you with my heart that we assume with humility the accomplishments obtained through this protest, and together, let’s end this hunger strike,” López wrote.

The 44-year-old former mayor of the Caracas district of Chacao was arrested on February 18, 2014 after he was charged with sedition and other crimes related to nationwide anti-government protests held weeks earlier, during which 43 people died.

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President Nicolás Maduro has ignored repeated calls by international organizations and global leaders for López’s immediate release from the military prison where he is being held, outside of Caracas.

The opposition had feared that the Maduro government would not hold parliamentary elections this year because it kept postponing the date.

Recent polls have shown that the opposition parties that form the United Democratic Roundtable (MUD) for the first time could take control of the National Assembly.

It remains unclear whether other protestors who joined López in a hunger strike would obey his call. A radical group of opposition members, known as JAVU, has said that they would not end their strikes until the government meets all of their demands.

Besides setting a date for the regional and local elections, López had also asked that the government free all political prisoners and allow international observers to monitor the elections.

The opposition has demanded that the government invites the EU and OAS as election observers

In his letter, López said that he was waiting for an answer “in the next few hours” from the Public Defender’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court (TSJ) concerning his release, as well as for the others.

Opposition leaders say that the government is holding about 200 people – including Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and former San Cristóbal Mayor Daniel Ceballos – on a range of charges related to an alleged plot to organize a coup against Maduro.

On Monday, the president of the National Election Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, said that the government would invite members from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to observe the election but made no mention of other international monitors.

López’s wife said her husband had reached a critical condition in recent days, and was unable to walk

The opposition has demanded that the European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS), which have both expressed an interest to participate as observers, be allowed to watch the polling stations.

Tintori, López’s wife, said her husband had reached a critical condition in recent days, having lost 15 kilos and being left unable to walk.

Prosecutors refused a family request that a private physician enter the Ramo Verde prison to examine him. Instead, two government doctors tried to meet with López, who refused to be examined by them.

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