(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
CARACAS - Venezuela's leftist government prepared to release some 80 jailed anti-government activists on Saturday, and threatened to expel envoys from Canada and Brazil after criticism over rights.
Delcy Rodriguez, head of the pro-government Constituent Assembly, told reporters the legislative superbody was recommending the detainees be given alternative punishments such as community service and compensation for victims.
Thirteen activists were later paraded in front of state TV cameras during a meeting with Rodriguez, a hardline ally of President Nicolas Maduro. They looked stony-faced as they sat listening to her admonishments in the formal surroundings of Venezuela's colonial-era foreign ministry.
Rights groups and foes of Maduro say authorities are unfairly holding 268 political prisoners for protesting against "dictatorship." Maduro, the 55-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez, says all jailed activists are there on legitimate charges of violence and subversion.