Venezuela opposition politician Guevara freed after talks


Freddy Guevara

Venezuelan opposition politician Freddy Guevara has been released from jail two days after the government of President Nicolás Maduro and opposition representatives met in Mexico.

Mr Guevara had been arrested in July and charged with treason and terrorism.

The release of political prisoners was one of the demands made by the opposition at the start of talks aimed at ending Venezuela’s political crisis.

Mr Guevara is expected to form part of the opposition’s negotiating team.

He was stopped while driving on a highway in the capital, Caracas, and ordered out of his car by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.

Officials alleged that he had links to a gang behind a deadly shoot-out in the capital which left dozens dead days before his arrest.

Mr Guevara is a former student leader and close ally of opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

His lawyer argued that his arrest was purely political and denied that his client had links to any gangs. His lawyer added that he had not been granted access to Mr Guevara while he was in detention.

Upon his release, Mr Guevara told journalists that he had been held in isolation and therefore had no information about whether he would be allowed to join the opposition negotiating team in Mexico.

His release is thought to be the first concession made by the Maduro government after entering into fresh negotiations with the opposition.

The first meeting – hosted by Mexico and facilitated by Norway – was held on Friday between the government representative, Jorge Rodríguez, and opposition negotiator Gerardo Blyde.

The opposition is demanding that guarantees be given so that free and fair elections can be held.

The Maduro government wants economic sanctions imposed by the US and other countries lifted.

Mr Maduro came to power after the death of his mentor, President Hugo Chávez, in 2013. He was re-elected in 2018.

Shortly after Mr Maduro was sworn in for a new six-year term in January 2019, Mr Guaidó – the leader of the National Assembly – declared himself interim president arguing that Mr Maduro lacked legitimacy. Mr Guaidó was not recognised by most the countries.

The two men and their followers have been at loggerheads ever since and the talks are an attempt to find a resolution to the impasse.