Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader ends hunger strike

Venezuelan opposition leader Lopez sends letter written from jail declaring end of hunger strike

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has ended a month-long hunger strike a day after authorities set a date for legislative elections.

Lopez called the government’s decision on Monday to set an election day “a joint achievement” for him and 100 other hunger strikers who had joined him, in a letter read by his wife Lilian Tintori at a news conference on Tuesday.

“We are ending the strike, but our struggle continues,” he continued in his letter.

Lopez went on hunger strike 30 days ago, demanding that the government free opponents jailed during last year’s anti-government demonstrations, and set a date for elections that the current government is expected to lose, according to opinion polls.

Lopez leads the Popular Will party and has been imprisoned since February 2014 on charges related to his alleged involvement with anti-government street protests that occasionally spilled into violence in 2014.

The electoral council in Venezuela said the congressional elections would be held Dec. 6, ending months of speculation that the election would be delayed or canceled outright.

In a nationally televised press conference, the president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, said the organisation had always intended to set a date.

The announcement came after the United States and Venezuela recently engaged in high-level talks in an attempt to normalise relations between two countries.

The US had demanded Venezuela’s freeing of political prisoners and setting a date for legislative elections in return for Caracas’s demand for re-establishing of diplomatic ties.

The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela currently holds a majority on the legislature, but the government’s popularity has fallen amid poor economic performance along with mounting shortage and rampant crime.

Polls indicate that if the election were held today, the opposition coalition would win overwhelmingly the votes.

TRTWorld and agencies