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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Venezuela begins releasing political prisoners following ground-breaking election deal

This TV grab shows opposition Venezuelan lawmaker Juan Requesens in detention as he admits on a video broadcast by the Venezuelan government on Aug. 8, 2018, to having had contact with one of the suspects of an alleged plot against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.    (AFP TV/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Antonio Maria Delgado Miami Herald

Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro released five political prisoners Wednesday night, a few hours after the U.S. government announced it will partially lift sanctions on the country’s socialist regime, said opposition chief negotiator Gerardo Blyde.

Unconfirmed versions indicated that a sixth opponent had also been released on Thursday morning and that new releases could occur during the day.

Among the prisoners freed from Venezuelan prisons on Wednesday night was opposition Congressman Juan Requesens, who will now be placed under house arrest, and journalist Roland Carreño, a close collaborator of former opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Also released were Marco Garcés, who had been detained along with former U.S. Marine Matthew Heath; Eurinel Rincón, a former secretary at the Ministry of Defense accused of treason, and Mariana Barreto, imprisoned for protesting irregularities in the supply of gasoline in the state of Trujillo.

The sixth unconfirmed freed political prisoner would be Wilder Anderson Vásquez, one of those arrested in connection with the plot to assassinate Maduro with drones in 2018.

Carreño, arrested in October 2020, had been accused of financing terrorism and of illicit arms trafficking. He appeared photographed next to Blyde shortly after being released from the Helicoide, the feared prison in Caracas of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.

The Biden administraion announced Wednesday it was partially lifting the sanctions it has maintained against Caracas, following the deal reached the day before by representatives of the Maduro regime and of the Venezuelan opposition that would lead to freer presidential elections to be held in the second half of next year.

However, the U.S. government warned that it will be ready to reinstate sanctions if at any time the Venezuelan regime fails to comply with its commitments.

The Biden administration also emphasized that it expects the Maduro government to take concrete steps to allow opposition candidates to be able to compete without restrictions in the elections and to release all Venezuelan political prisoners and U.S. citizens detained unjustly in the country.

“Failure to comply with the terms of this agreement will lead the United States to reverse the measures we have taken,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “The United States supports the Venezuelan people and the actors who want a democratic future.”

In announcing the lifting of sanctions, the administration said it would grant a six-month general license that would temporarily authorize transactions in the Venezuelan oil and gas sectors, and a second general license that would authorize the operations of state-owned Minerven, a previously sanctioned gold mining company that had been forced to operate on the black market.

Additionally, the Biden administration lifted a trade ban on the purchase and sale of certain Venezuelan sovereign bonds and bonds and securities belonging to the state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, PDVSA.