Jailed Venezuela opposition leader calls off hunger strike

AP News
Posted: Jun 11, 2015 5:42 PM
Jailed Venezuela opposition leader calls off hunger strike

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Jailed Venezuela opposition leader Daniel Ceballos called off his hunger strike Thursday after 20 days.

His attorney, Juan Carlos Gutierrez, said Ceballos' demands had been partially met. He was striking with fellow jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to demand that the government set a date for parliamentary elections and release jailed politicians like themselves who human rights groups consider political prisoners.

It was unclear which of their demands had been partially met and whether Lopez would continue to fast.

Ceballos' lawyer and wife had warned previously that his health was deteriorating badly and he was suffering from kidney pain.

Ceballos and Lopez are in separate prisons, held on charges related to supporting the 2014 anti-government protests that left dozens dead.

Venezuelan authorities removed Ceballos as mayor of the western city of San Cristobal during anti-government protests last year. He was arrested in March 2014 and quickly convicted on charges of disobeying authority for his refusal to remove barricades set up by demonstrators.

Although he completed that one-year sentence, he was ordered held while awaiting trial on more serious charges tied to his support for protests in the city, which kicked off a nationwide wave of anti-government unrest.

In May, he won a primary in San Cristobal from behind bars to stand as the opposition alliance's candidate in this year's legislative elections. Under Venezuelan law, a win in the general election could free him from jail because legislators receive immunity from prosecution during their terms.

The hunger strike has mobilized an opposition that has seemed listless since last year's demonstrations. A day of protest called by Lopez at the end of May to support the strike drew the largest crowds that Caracas and other major cities had seen since the 2014 movement.

Some more moderate opposition members have not supported the hunger strike, fearing it could take the focus off the effort to mobilize voters for elections that the law says must be held before the end of the year.