Venezuela

Venezuela jailed opposition leader ends 30-day hunger strike on election news

In this Feb. 18, 2014 file photo, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, dressed in white and holding up a flower stem, is taken into custody by Bolivarian National Guards, in Caracas, Venezuela. Lopez has ended a 30-day hunger strike after authorities set a date for 2015 legislative elections.
In this Feb. 18, 2014 file photo, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, dressed in white and holding up a flower stem, is taken into custody by Bolivarian National Guards, in Caracas, Venezuela. Lopez has ended a 30-day hunger strike after authorities set a date for 2015 legislative elections. AP

Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López ended a 30-day hunger strike Tuesday after the administration announced it would be holding legislative elections Dec. 6.

In letter sent from the Ramo Verde jail, where he has been detained since Feb. 18, 2014, López said that calling the election “gave Venezuela a date for change.”

“We started this protest not to die but so that all Venezuelans could live with dignity,” López wrote in a letter read by his wife, Lilian Tintori. “Hunger strikes are a method of resistance. We lift the strike but the fight continues.”

The announcement came less than 24 hours after the National Electoral Council fixed the date for the critical legislative vote.

Polls suggest that the coalition of 29 opposition parties known as the MUD might capture congress for the first time in more than a decade as soaring crime and a flailing economy have undermined the popularity of President Nicolás Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV.

The administration’s reluctance to set a date for the vote had sparked rumors that it might not take place at all. Along with López, other prominent politicians and more than 100 supporters launched hunger strikes in solidarity and demanding answers.

López, 44, a former mayor and presidential hopeful, is facing charges that he incited violence during national strikes in 2014 that left more than 40 dead on both sides of the political divide. Human rights groups have said those charges are trumped up.

When López began the hunger strike in May he also called for international observation of the congressional race, freedom for political prisoners and the end of government repression. On Tuesday, the Union of South American Nations confirmed that it would act as an official observer for the vote.

The United States, which has been engaged in quiet talks with Venezuela, welcomed the news about the election, calling it “a positive step for the Venezuelan people and their democratic institutions.”

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