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Despite Early Prison Releases, Venezuela's Opposition is Still Under Pressure

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The release of prominent opponents offers little sign that Maduro is softening his tone

Retired General Raúl Baduel, a former Venezuelan defense minister and vocal government critic, was granted an early release from prison this morning after serving six years of an eight year anti-corruption sentence. His release comes just 24 hours after Daniel Ceballos, an opposition leader and former mayor, was granted house arrest due to poor health stemming from a 20-day hunger strike he undertook in June. Ceballos had spent a year and a half behind bars for his role in anti-government protests in 2014. Yet another prominent opposition figure, former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, was transferred to house arrest in April.

But the release of three of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela's most prominent opponents offers little sign that President Nicolás Maduro is softening his tone ahead of parliamentary elections on December 6. Late last month, the government banned three popular opposition leaders—two of whom had declared their candidacy in the upcoming election—from holding office. And Leopoldo López, perhaps the most recognized face of the Venezuelan opposition, remains in a military jail, where he has been held since February 2014.

The opposition also sees a recently passed gender parity regulation as a mode of undermining its success in the upcoming elections. The regulation requires political parties to present an equal number of male and female candidates for elections, but went into effect a month after the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of 27 opposition groups, had selected its candidates.

Maduro has expressed confidence in a Socialist Party victory in December. But tamping down opposition may be the least of his worries—chronic shortages of basic goods, an estimated annual inflation rate of 808 percent, low oil prices, and a 25 percent approval rating should be bigger concerns.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Venezuela elections, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela Opposition

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