Thousands of Venezuelans protest for dissidents' release

Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, delivers a speech during a peaceful demonstration against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, on May 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra)

Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, delivers a speech during a peaceful demonstration against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, on May 30, 2015

Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, delivers a speech during a peaceful demonstration against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, on May 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra)

Caracas (AFP) - Thousands of demonstrators took to Caracas' streets on Saturday to press for the release of imprisoned foes of President Nicolas Maduro's government.

Summoned by jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, about 3,000 supporters jammed a main thoroughfare in Caracas to rally alongside his wife, Lilian Tintori, and the wives of former San Cristobal, Tachira mayor Daniel Ceballos, and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma -- all fellow Maduro opponents behind bars.

Ceballos and Lopez have been on hunger strikes recently. Former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga also was at Saturday's rally; on Friday he tried but failed with Colombian ex president Andres Pastrana to get access to Lopez and Ceballos.

"One thing we can be sure of is that the fight put up by Leopoldo (Lopez), Daniel (Ceballos) and their families, will end up bringing Venezuela elections, democracy, freedom, and a new direction," Quiroga told AFP.

Lopez, 44, has been held at the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas since he was arrested in February 2014 on charges of inciting the violence that killed 43 people and wounded hundreds as Venezuelans took to the streets in mass protests against Maduro's government last year.

Ceballos was in the same prison until a recent transfer to another facility in the central state of Guarico.

Lopez had filmed a video in jail urging demonstrators to go out "peacefully" to demand political prisoners be freed, call for an end to persecution and censorship and demand a date be set for upcoming legislative elections.

Several smaller demonstrations were held in San Cristobal, Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, Maturin, Puerto La Cruz, Puerto Ordaz and San Fernando.

The government has yet to schedule legislative polls due this year, in which Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela could lose its sway.

The country's economy is reeling from a collapse in crude prices, soaring inflation, a shortfall of hard currency and chronic shortages of basic goods.

Venezuela is also the second deadliest country in the world, according to UN data.