López’s wife accuses government minister of harassmanetMonday, May 12, 2014
Venezuela charges 11 students, releases 150
CARACAS — Venezuelan courts have ordered 11 student protesters to stand trial, but they have freed more than 150 others arrested with them during raids on their encampments, prosecutors said yesterday.
The statement from the prosecutor’s office said the 11 face charges including weapons offences, criminal association and incitement to violate laws, as well as drug violations.
It said, however, that 156 others will be freed, though they will have to report periodically to the courts. Prosecutors asked that an additional 15 be sent for treatment of drug use.
Some protesters had been released earlier.
Hundreds of police and troops arrested 243 student protesters during pre-dawn raids Thursday on four encampments of protesters opposed to President Nicolás Maduro’s Socialist government.
That set off angry clashes in which one police officer was killed, raising the death toll from disturbances that began in February to at least 42.
Although the government hoped the demolition of four camps in the Caracas’ neighbourhood of Chacao would snuff out a three-month protest movement, activists vowed the measure had only strengthened their resolve to demonstrate against Maduro.
The students had been camping for weeks outside UN offices, on a major highway and in several other public squares.
Tintori takes centre-stage
The student movement has aligned itself with the more radical wing of the Venezuelan opposition, led by imprisoned leader Leopoldo López.
The more moderate wing, including former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, has been holding peace talks with the government in a bid to find a way out of the political crisis.
Both López and the students reject the negotiations.
On Friday, López’s wife Lilian Tintori accused Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres of harassment, after the leading Maduro minister publicly accused her of bringing food to students who were camping in Chacao.
Tintori denied the allegations and said she had only visited the camps twice, but “would do so thousands of times because the students’ protest is legitimate,” local newspaper El Nacional said.
She said that her children, who are worried about their father being in jail, have asked her if she will be imprisoned too, following Rodríguez Torres’ accusations.
Meanwhile, a commission in the US Lower Chamber approved on Friday a bill that would sanction Venezuelan officials for human rights violations during the protests.
The bill requests that the US government denies visas and freezes assets of high-ranking Venezuelan officials.
The bill will now be discussed in the chamber and, if approved, will go to the Senate where it will have to be debated.
Maduro has downplayed the impact that sanctions would have on Venezuela, saying that “Bolívar’s people is not stopped by the sanctions of any empire.”
“Support for sanctions is growing,” the president of Interamerican Dialogue, Michael Shifter, said. “The arrest of 240 students (last week) has given new impulse to the initiative.”
Herald with AP, online media