CARACAS – Opposition students on a hunger strike said Tuesday that they continue until the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights sends a delegation to “verify that political dissidence is being persecuted” in Venezuela.
The hunger strike began last Friday with the goal of getting the IACHR to send observers to Caracas and that their fellow-student Julio Rivas, arrested for presumably taking part in acts of street violence, be released on bail pending his trial.
A court on Monday ordered parole for Rivas, whom prosecutors charge with allegedly committing crimes of “instigation to commit crime, resistance to authority, inciting civil war, use of a generic weapon and association to commit crime.”
Authorities say the charges stem from incidents at the end of the opposition march on Aug. 22 against the new Education Law, when stones and bottles were thrown at the police and a barrier marking the end of the demonstrators’ march route was knocked down.
The hunger strikers said that Rivas committed no crime because he was exercising his constitutional right to protest.
The student, arrested Sept. 7, will be able to await his trial while “out on bail,” with the requirement that he regularly report to the court, according to his attorneys.
The hunger strike is being held near the Caracas offices of the Organization of American States, the IACHR’s parent body.
“The strike will continue until the IACHR agrees to send a delegation to this country to verify that political dissidence is being persecuted,” Rivas, acting as spokesman for the hunger strikers, told the press Tuesday,
Besides the group of hunger strikers in Caracas, there is another group, also students of the opposition, in Valencia, the city where Rivas lives.
“I call on my fellow-students in Valence to come to Caracas however tired they must be, because our goal is here,” Rivas said.
According to local media, the number of participants in both groups was about 40.
The government has rejected the possibility that the IACHR intervene in this country on grounds that the responsibility for breaking criminal law cannot be evaded by alleging political persecution. EFE