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08 July 2017

Venezuela opposition leader Lopez freed and under house arrest

Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo LopezImage copyright
EPA

Image caption

Mr Lopez has been serving a jail term for inciting violence

Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez has been put under house arrest after more than three years in jail.

“Leopoldo Lopez is at his home in Caracas with [his wife] Lilian and his children,” his lawyer Javier Cremades said.

Mr Lopez is three years into a 14-year sentence for inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014.

The Supreme Court said he was released on health grounds.

He was being held in a jail near Caracas and has always protested his innocence.

His wife had complained that she had not been allowed to see Lopez for more than a month, but on Friday she tweeted she had been allowed an hour-long meeting

In May, a government lawmaker published a video of Lopez in his cell following rumours that he had been poisoned and taken to hospital.

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Media captionLeopoldo Lopez’s “proof of life” video

In the video, Mr Lopez said he was well and did not know why he was being asked for “a proof of life”.

Venezuela has been experiencing a wave of anti-government protests similar to those over which Mr Lopez was jailed.

The opposition is calling for early elections and the release of opposition politicians jailed in recent years, saying the socialist governments of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have mismanaged the economy since coming to power in 1999.

What’s happening in Venezuela?

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Media captionYour video guide to the crisis gripping Venezuela
  • The country is in a deep economic crisis, made worse by the falling price of oil, which accounts for about 95% of its export revenues and was used to finance some of the government’s generous social programmes. Forced to make cuts, Mr Maduro has seen his support fall among core backers
  • Also, as a result of the crisis, parts of Venezuela face severe shortages of basic supplies such as medicine and food
  • The opposition accuses Mr Maduro of not only mismanaging the economy but also eroding the country’s democratic institutions
  • In March, the Supreme Court decided it would take over the National Assembly. The decision was reversed, but Mr Maduro was accused by opponents of trying to stage a coup. That sparked almost daily protests calling for his resignation
  • Meanwhile, Mr Maduro says the opposition is trying to overthrow his government illegally, and blames the country’s problems on an “economic war” being waged against him
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