Relatives of Venezuelan political prisoners hold press conference with OAS Secretary General

Relatives of three prominent Venezuelan political prisoners Monday joined Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, in pleading for action to free the country from what they described as the repressive regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

“We come here to ask the OAS … to end the dictatorship of Maduro,” activist Patricia de Ceballos said at a news conference with two other activists and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. Her husband, a former mayor in Venezuela, has been confined first at home, then in prison, for three years.“

Venezuela needs democracy…it’s urgent,” added Lilian Tintori, activist and wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. The founder of the Popular Will party is serving a 14-year sentence after being convicted of inciting violence during protests in February 2014.

Also at the news conference was Oriana Goicoechea, sister of Popular Will youth leader Yon Goicoechea, who was arrested in August and charged with carrying explosives. Yon Goicoechea won a 2008 prize from the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian organization, for purportedly advancing democracy in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Carmen Velasquez, interrupted the news conference to accuse Almagro of waging a “provocative media [and] political campaign against the legitimate and constitutional government. …”

After Velasquez’s interruption, Almagro said that this incident further convinced him that the government’s system of persecution follows them everywhere. "Let's hope that this is always the practice in the OAS, to have enough openness so that all can express their dissent," Almagro said, denouncing again "the dictatorial regime" that, in his opinion, governs in Venezuela.