World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuelan authorities late Saturday began releasing some of those detained during demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government, a rare goodwill gesture to the opposition at the end of a politically torrid year.
Among the first freed was Alfredo Ramos, mayor of the northwestern municipality of Iribarren, who was arrested late July and handed a 15 month sentence, and a dozen police officers from Chacao municipality, an opposition stronghold of Caracas.
State television showed image of Rodriguez meeting with the group.
"You go back to jail for the medical check and then you go home to spend Christmas with your families," she said.
"I feel happy for my freedom," Ramos told journalists upon his release. "It was a hard test, quite difficult."
But he also lashed out at his sentence.
"It was an arbitrary, unjust detention -- I committed no crime," he added.
Venezuela, whose oil reserves once made it the region's richest country, has been paralyzed in recent years by economic collapse and political conflict.
Opposition forces accuse Maduro of dismantling democratic institutions and setting up the Constituent Assembly to rubber-stamp his policies, with widespread protests breaking out this year.
Supplies of food and medicine have become scarce, taking an ever-greater toll on people's health, and hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have chosen to emigrate.
The fate of those imprisoned has been a subject of negotiations between the government and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) in the Dominican Republic, as both sides seek a solution to the country's grave political and economic crisis.
A third round of talks is set for January 11 and 12.
Earlier this week, Venezuelan opposition leaders asked Maduro to free "political prisoners" -- whose numbers one non-governmental group has put at 268 -- before Christmas as a gesture of good will.
On Thursday, the regional trade bloc Mercosur also called for their release.
The government has insisted that all are being held for acts of violence, conspiracy or treason, not as "political prisoners".
Rodriguez said those affected were being held in both civilian and military prisons, and she suggested community service as an alternative to imprisonment.
Some were detained in 2014 protests, and others this year.
Over 190,000 voters across 6 districts will vote for 28 municipalities and 280 members of the city council
Two leaders announce they will form new government
The attack targeted a meeting of ISIL leaders in the eastern Deir Ez Zour province
Official results of Iraq’s parliamentary election have been dogged by controversy and allegations of vote-rigging
Threat comes after EU announced 25 percent tariff on US products
Armed terrorists ‘neutralized’ in northern Iraqi region of Gara
Palestinians have been holding mass rallies near Gaza-Israel security fence since March 30
Police report states driver of car that killed pedestrian in Arizona was streaming television show
Decision follows Trump's pledge to end “war games” during Singapore summit
Conservative bill was widely expected to fail in the chamber
Washington urges Moscow to reign in ally amid offensive in de-escalation zone
‘Koko touched lives of millions as an icon for interspecies communication and empathy’, Gorilla Foundation says
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says they will look into strengthening transatlantic bond in summit next month
Administration to no longer require immediate legal proceedings for undocumented adults who cross illegally with children