US Calls for Venezuela Political Prisoners’ ‘Immediate Release’

Business Recorder: The US State Department called Wednesday for the "immediate release" of Venezuela's political prisoners, after the country's legislature approved an amnesty bill demanding their freedom.

Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, met in Washington with relatives of jailed Venezuelan opposition leaders, including the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, a high-profile former mayor who has been held for more than two years on charges of inciting anti-government protests.

"The release of political prisoners in #Venezuela is long overdue, I join with their families to call for their immediate release," she posted on Twitter.

The measure, which was approved by the Venezuelan legislature a week ago Tuesday, sets up a confrontation with President Nicolas Maduro, who opposes the move.

It demands the release of some 76 political prisoners, including Lopez, and hundreds of people "persecuted and exiled" due to their opposition to the leftist government in power for the past 17 years.

Maduro has until Friday to either sign the bill into law, send it back for changes, or submit it to the Supreme Court, which critics say is stacked in Maduro's favor.

Maduro, the political heir to leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez, contends that the legislation violates the constitution and international agreements on human rights.

Jacobson's call for the prisoners' release followed a similar appeal on Tuesday by Luis Almagro, president of the Organization of American States (OAS).

In December, Venezuela's opposition won a landslide victory in legislative elections, setting up the biggest challenge yet to the socialist "revolution" Chavez launched in 1999.