Release all political prisoners: Trump to Venezuelan President
Washington, Aug 2: Condemning Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro for the re-arrest of two opposition leaders, US President Donald Trump called for an immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in the crisis-stricken country.
Venezuela's two leading opposition figures -- Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma -- had been detained by the police from their homes late last night.
"The United States condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship. Mr Lopez and Mr Ledezma are political prisoners being held illegally by the regime," Trump said in a late night statement on Tuesday after it was reported that Trump has held Maduro personally responsible for the health and safety of all political prisoners.
"The United States holds Maduro - who publicly announced just hours earlier that he would move against his political opposition - personally responsible for the health and safety of Mr Lopez, Mr Ledezma, and any others seized," Trump said.
"We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners," said the US President.
Earlier in a statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the US is deeply concerned over the Venezuelan government's decision to return the two opposition leaders to prison.
"We call for their immediate release. Their arrest comes two days after the Maduro regime's illegitimate election for a constitutional assembly, which provoked even more violence in that country on the streets, with more than 10 people killed in that alone," she said.
Nauert said that Vice-President Mike Pence had a "recent conversation" with Mr López on the phone.
"The United States stands with the Venezuelan people, and we call for the full and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Venezuela, free and fair elections, restoration of the national assembly, and respect for human rights in Venezuela," she quoted Pence as saying.
"Our thoughts and prayers reside with all of those who have suffered during Venezuela's political crisis. The United States urges the re-establishment of democracy in Venezuela and the restoration of the prosperity that the Venezuelans have fought so hard to achieve. We are committed to supporting the Venezuelan people through this long struggle," Nauert said.
The Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, in a separate statement condemned the new imprisonment of the two leaders.
"This latest action taken without the minimum guarantees of any legal framework is completely harmful to the human rights of both leaders and their families," he said.
Earlier, the Trump administration had announced sanctions against Maduro, in retaliation for the latter's threat against his opposition leaders and the Sunday's elections which have been denounced by the international community as "illegitimate".