Venezuela releases six political prisoners, over 100 still in jail

Venezuela's government has freed a former presidential candidate and several student activists who were jailed during anti-government protests in 2014.

Former opposition candidate Manuel Rosales was released before dawn Saturday along with five other activists, including Gerardo Carrero, who led a group of students that camped for weeks outside the U.N. offices in Caracas to draw attention to a government crackdown on protests blamed for scores of deaths.

The releases come as a two-month-old, Vatican-mediated attempt at dialogue to ease tensions stemming from the country's deep economic and political crisis hangs by a thread over the failure by unpopular President Nicolas Maduro to cede ground to opponents seeking his removal.

"Without a doubt, Venezuela is living a deep social crisis and these releases in some way are an escape valve that takes some pressure, especially international [pressure], off Maduro," said Alfredo Romero, executive director of Foro Penal, a group of lawyers that defends dozens of jailed activists.

"But it's important to remember that in 2016 there were 55 people jailed and only 43 released," he added.

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