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Venezuela releases 40 more prisoners in bid to unite nation

Juan Barreto, AFP | The president of the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez (2-R) shakes hands with Tachira State opposition governor Laidy Gomez, as Venezuelan Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab (R) looks on before a meeting with opposit

The government freed dozens more Venezuelan opposition activists from jail Saturday, bringing to almost 80 the number of prisoners whose release authorities hope will unite the fractured nation.

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Among the 40 people released were two substitute lawmakers, one of whom had been held since 2014 for allegedly inciting violence in protests that year. The son of a former defense minister for the late Hugo Chavez was also let go.

President Nicolas Maduro said after being re-elected May 20 in a contested victory that chief among his conciliatory measures would be freeing anti-government activists considered political prisoners by the opposition.

On Friday, he released the first 39, and authorities said more releases could take place next week.

Those being freed are barred from speaking with the press or on social media.

In May, Maduro's government freed 20 people who were arrested during protests against widespread blackouts. It also freed Joshua Holt, a Utah man who had been jailed nearly two years earlier on weapons charges that U.S. officials considered bogus.

(AP)

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