Venezuela frees 40 jailed activists and politicians

Venezuela says group of Maduro opponents released from jail

Dozens of activists in Venezuela who government opponents considered political prisoners were released from jail Friday in what authorities called a gesture aimed at uniting the fractured nation.

Friday's releases included Angel Rivas, a former army general famous for taking to the roof of his home with an assault rifle in defiance of an arrest warrant, and Daniel Ceballos, former mayor of the restive city of San Cristobal.

"The doors are open to those who choose the path of peace and reconciliation", Maduro tweeted.

President Nicolas Maduro said after being re-elected May 20 in a contested victory that chief among his conciliatory measures would be releasing prisoners jailed for acts against the government.

Human rights groups say Venezuela illegally jails hundreds of people.

Delcy Rodriguez, president of the Constituent National Assembly, said this is the first round and promised more prisoner releases.

The government's Comision de la Verdad, or "the Truth Commission", has released political prisoners, sometime in waves and always with great fanfare, only to follow up with more arrests.

Maduro said his administration is "very disposed to frank, honest and constructive dialogue" to resolve the country's political and economic crises.

On Friday, he released the first 39, and authorities said more releases could take place next week.

Those arbitrarily detained include political activists, students, journalists, police, military, human rights activists and "all kinds of citizens who simply manifested by their fundamental right to protest and to claim their rights enshrined in the Constitution that have been denied by the government of President Maduro", the report reads. It also freed Joshua Holt, a Utah man who had been jailed almost two years earlier on weapons charges that USA officials considered bogus. "The battle goes on for all the other separated families, for Venezuela, for a better future".

While released, Ceballos can't leave Venezuela and he's banned from talking to the media or commenting on social media, according to the court. He was accused of inciting big anti-government street protests and sentenced to almost 14 years in prison.

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