World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuela's government on Monday released another eight political opponents from jail, bringing to 44 the number freed since Saturday in a goodwill gesture timed to happen over Christmas.
"The government is interested in reducing the number of political prisoners to reduce the cost they represent. There are still 227 political prisoners -- the highest number for any Christmas," Romero said.
The Venezuelan regime had promised to release 80 inmates for Christmas. Delcy Rodriguez, head of a Truth Commission investigating protests against President Nicolas Maduro's regime, had called the move a sign of "reconciliation."
Those jailed had been arrested during demonstrations demanding that Maduro step down. Mass street protests began in 2014, when 43 people were killed in clashes, and have continued sporadically ever since with 125 dead earlier this year.
The government rejects the label "political prisoners" for the opposition inmates, preferring to characterize them as common criminals.
Venezuela's opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition welcomed the release of the inmates. But it said on Twitter that "they should never have been deprived of their freedom" as "striving to reconstruct a country ruined by the regime is not a crime."
Among those freed in the first wave was Alfredo Ramos, mayor of the northwestern municipality of Irribarren, who was arrested in late July and handed a 15-month sentence.
The jailed political opponents were among the issues discussed in talks, held in the Dominican Republic, between the government and the opposition.
The dialogue is aimed at trying to find a political solution to the dire crisis engulfing Venezuela, a once-rich oil-producing nation that is now partially in default on its debts, with scarcities of food and medicine.
A third round of talks is due to take place January 11-12.
Some interesting facts about Muslim nations and the players in this year’s competition.
Global tide of forcibly displaced people rose 2.9M last year; Turkey hosts largest refugee population, most Syrians
Republican-controlled Senate votes 85-10 for fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier that nearly 40 foreign fighters allied to Syria's regime were killed in the raid in eastern Syria.
Osman Askin Bak says Turkey prepared to host 2024 UEFA European Football Championship
12,845 registered Turkish voters cast ballots for Turkey's presidential, general elections in New York
Settlers clash with Israeli police over illegal settlement outpost built on Palestinian land
Israeli army strikes at al-Bureij refugee camp in Gaza Strip
US will implement 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods that 'contain industrially significant technologies,' White House says
Airstrikes target PKK terror group in mountainous Qandil region
Colombians go to the polls in the second round of presidential elections
Restaurant chain to ditch plastic drinking straws in UK by 2019 and begin testing alternatives elsewhere
Nearly $200M still frozen after Trump authorizes administration to use funds to bolster White Helmets, UN
Gaza's Palestinians celebrate end-of-Ramadan holiday amid steadily worsening economic conditions