Sun, 08 Dec 2019

Venezuela on Monday freed an opposition legislator who spent almost two months behind bars, parliament announced, ahead of a visit by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Gilber Caro, 45, had been in custody since his arrest by intelligence agents on April 26 for unclear reasons.

"The deputy Gilber Caro never should have been imprisoned. Today he is out from behind bars but like all Venezuelans still has no freedom," the National Assembly said.

Venezuela is caught in an economic crisis and a political standoff between President Nicolas Maduro's government and National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.

The opposition leader, Guaido, declared himself interim president earlier this year, and has been recognised by the United States and more than 50 other countries.

Guaido's opposition-controlled assembly has effectively been sidelined by a separate body, the pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly.

Bachelet's office said she will meet both Maduro and Guaido during her trip lasting from Wednesday to Friday.

She will also hold talks with civil society leaders and "victims of human rights violations and abuses", the UN rights office said.

Bachelet, a former president of Chile, has been critical of Maduro's crackdown on opponents, particularly of the excessive force used by the security services in response to legitimate protests.

She has also criticised US sanctions against Maduro's government, cautioning that they were exacerbating the crisis and possibly hurting "people's basic rights and well-being".

The oil-rich country is suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods from food to medicine, a crisis that has forced millions to flee.

Caro was arrested just before a failed April 30 uprising when Guaido appeared surrounded by about 30 military personnel.

Clashes between protesters and security forces left several people dead and the Supreme Court has charged at least 14 National Assembly deputies with involvement and branded them as traitors.

One of them is Guaido's deputy Edgar Zambrano, who is in custody.

Caro was previously arrested in January 2017 on accusations of plotting an armed revolt against Maduro but was freed 17 months later without being convicted.

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