By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The embattled government of Nicolas Maduro has released seven political prisoners Saturday, hours after midnight, but more than 100 will still spend another New Year’s day behind bars.
“They should have never been in prison. There is no way to compensate them or their families from that much pain and suffering,” opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano tweeted early Saturday morning.
Foro Penal, a legal-aid NGO reported Saturday morning that the prisoners were liberated at 2:30 a.m. Those freed so far are: Skarlyn Duarte, newspaper editor Leocenis Garcia, Nixon Leal, Yeimi Varela, Angel Contreras, Gerardo Carrero and former Zulia state governor and Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales.
Aside from Rosales -- who was detained in October after returning from 6 years in exile -- most of the students have been in jail since 2014.
Gerardo Carrero, for example, led a group of students who simply camped for weeks outside the U.N. offices in Caracas to draw attention to a government crackdown on protests.
In a Tweet, Foro Penal predicted that more prisoners could be released before the year ends.
The “Un Nuevo Tiempo” party, which is still a member of the main MUD opposition coalition, says there are still 126 Venezuelans jailed for political reasons though Foro Penal puts the number at 103.
In 2014, after facing the most violent street protests since the 1960’s, Maduro began an anti-opposition crackdown that has lasted practically to this day. In a single day in 2014, the National Guard arrested 3,000 protesters who had camped outside UN office in Caracas, the single largest razzia in recorded Venezuelan history.
Now, according to Amnesty International Venezuela has more political prisoners than Cuba.
In a propaganda twist, the Maduro government insists on calling political prisoners “politicians in prison” in all state-owned media and official communications (the government is the country’s main media owner), pointing out the fact that the activists freed and those still inside were charged with common offenses.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been in jail since February 2014 serving a 13 year sentence for "subliminally inciting violence", was not released.