Maduro to Release 14 Political Prisoners Following Caracas Clash

Patricia Laya and Fabiola Zerpa

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela will release 14 political prisoners following negotiations with minority political parties one day after President Nicolas Maduro ousted opposition leader Juan Guaido and his backers from the National Assembly.

The announcement is Maduro’s latest effort to sideline Guaido, who’s made the release of political prisoners a central part of his platform to oust Venezuela’s ruling regime. Guaido, recognized by the U.S. and dozens of its allies as the country’s legitimate president, was barred from entering the assembly he leads Sunday amid violent clashes.

“They will be released today, and in the next couple of hours we will announce new releases as direct consequence of these negotiations,” televangelist and former presidential candidate Javier Bertucci said in a Caracas news conference.

Among the released are photojournalist Jesus Medina and Carlos Marron, owner of a black market dollar website. Medina, who was working on an investigative project at a Caracas hospital, had been detained in the military prison of Ramo Verde since August 2018 on charges including inciting hate and criminal association. Marron, owner of Florida-registered DolarPro.com, had been held since April the same year and accused of financial terrorism and promoting currency speculation.

Bertucci said the negotiating parties, which include Maduro’s closest allies and political leaders who have separated from the main opposition parties, now recognize Luis Parra as the National Assembly’s newest leader.

Venezuela government held 388 political prisoners as of Dec. 30, before these latest releases, according to an NGO Penal Forum report. Penal Forum’s Gonzalo Himiob said he couldn’t yet confirm the 14 prisoners’ release.

--With assistance from Alex Vasquez.

To contact the reporters on this story: Patricia Laya in Caracas at playa2@bloomberg.net;Fabiola Zerpa in Caracas Office at fzerpa@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Cancel at dcancel@bloomberg.net, Robert Jameson

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