Venezuela releases political prisoners

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered to release six opponents, including former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, amid the country’s worst political and economic crises.

“I have been freed, along with other political prisoners,” the 64-year-old Rosales, who had been under house arrest for over two months, said on Twitter on Saturday following his release.

According to opposition groups, the dissidents had been arrested during 2014 protests, demanding the removal of Maduro from power.

Rosales was taken into police custody on October 19 upon his return to the country following six years of exile. “We will continue to fight for the liberation of everyone,” Rosales added.

A former lawmaker, Rosales was two-time mayor of the northwestern city of Maracaibo, from 1996 to 2000, and from 2008 to 2009. He also served as the governor of the northwestern state of Zulia from 2000 to 2008. In 2006, he also challenged then President Hugo Chavez in presidential elections.

The opposition leaders had called for his release along with the freedom of other dissident leaders during negotiations with the government in an attempt to ease Venezuela’s crippling crises.

The crash of oil prices in 2014 triggered an economic crisis in Venezuela, leading to severe shortages of basic supplies and soaring inflation. While the center-right opposition holds Maduro’s administration responsible for the country’s economic woes, the Venezuelan leader has blamed a US-sponsored conspiracy.

Caracas has also lambasted its recent suspension from the South American economic bloc Mercosur as a “coup” against Venezuela that continues to resist Washington’s attempts to regain influence in the country.

During the past couple of months, the South American country has witnessed numerous protests against Maduro, demanding his ouster.