Dissident ex-general Angel Vivas among freed Venezuela prisoners

World Saturday 02/June/2018 19:18 PM
By: Times News Service
Dissident ex-general Angel Vivas among freed Venezuela prisoners

Caracas: A former Venezuelan army general famous for taking to the roof of his home with an assault rifle in defiance of President Nicolas Maduro's government has been freed from jail, supporters said.
Angel Vivas, 61, had openly called for rebellion against the socialist government foes view as a dictatorship, and became widely-known to Venezuelans during a standoff at his Caracas residence during 2014 protests.
He left jail late on Friday, footage on social media showed, among 17 people classed as political prisoners by local rights organization Penal Forum released during a reprieve Maduro said was meant to help national reconciliation.
Opposition critics and rights campaigners say Maduro's government is still holding more than 300 political prisoners, most jailed around demonstrations in 2014 and 2017.
Along with Vivas, the best-known among Friday's releases was Daniel Ceballos, former mayor of the restive western city of San Cristobal. The list did not include militant opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, the best known of Maduro's detained critics.
Video showed Vivas entering a meeting with government officials using a walking stick, and then being feted by supporters as he left the Helicoide prison in Caracas.
"Death to tyranny, long live liberty!" he said, before stating that the terms of his release prohibited him from speaking further to media.
Supporters surrounded his car, thanking him and singing the national anthem.
Maduro was re-elected on May 20 for a six-year term, in a vote widely condemned as a farce by the West and major Latin American nations.
Two of his most popular rivals, including Lopez, were banned from standing.
The president says he is victim of an "economic war" and coup plot led by the opposition with the backing of Washington.
Venezuelan authorities gave a list of 39 people released on Friday, but Penal Forum said only 20 of them were political prisoners, of whom three had already been freed.
Maduro bristles at the term political prisoners, saying all detainees are there on legitimate charges and convictions, including terrorism and plotting to topple him.