Venezuelan politician completes 23 days of hunger strike

Caracas, June 17 (IANS) Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has completed 23 days of hunger strike in prison even as his demands, including the announcement of parliamentary election dates, remain unmet, Spanish news agency Efe reported.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) has continued to be tight-lipped about the dates despite opposition pressure.

Lilian Tintori, Lopez’s wife, on Tuesday marched along with many other women, to the gates of the CNE to ask its President, Tibisay Lucena, to announce the dates and allow almost a hundred hunger strikers, including her husband, to end the protest which was begun on May 25.

The opposition wrote a letter to Lucena, making a formal request to announce the dates.

This, according to Tintori, can make a difference as opposed to previous demands since the letter was “addressed to her as a woman”.

“We cannot understand why she is not making the announcement and that is the question we ask in the letter. We requested her because lives are at risk, with nearly one hundred people, including Leopoldo, my husband, who has now gone 23 days without eating,” Tintori told Efe.

She added that Lopez’s health condition is unknown since she has not been allowed to see him for days.

However, she is aware that the Popular Will (VP) party leader has lost 12 kg because of the protest.

Tintori and her compatriots faced the hurdle of a cordon of military police, while trying to deliver the letter, although this was finally handed to an official of the CNE who was forced to come out to meet the women on the street.

There, the opposition received a barrage of insults and shouts by some supporters of former Venezuelan president Higo Chavez, who demanded the women withdraw from the area.

Meanwhile, a group of Brazilian senators are traveling to Caracas to examine the human rights situation in the country and will be received at the airport on Thursday by Tintori and other opposition members.

The Brazilian delegation, composed of opposition and pro-government senators, will try and visit imprisoned leaders Daniel Ceballos, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez, said Tintori.

The list of jailed opposition leaders, according to VP, is made up of around 70 people, including Lopez, Ceballos and Ledezma, who demand the release of “political prisoners” as well as the end of “repression”.

Lopez and Ceballos have been in prison for over a year and are charged with crimes related to violence during the wave of anti-government protests last year, while Ledesma, detained since last February, is charged with participating in a conspiracy against the government.

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