Euro MPs call on Venezuela to release detainees

The European Parliament called on Venezuela Thursday to release students and opposition figures "arbitrarily detained" during protests against left-wing President Nicolas Maduro.

Strasbourg: The European Parliament called on Venezuela Thursday to release students and opposition figures "arbitrarily detained" during protests against left-wing President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro has launched a crackdown on the opposition, saying they are doing Washington`s work in trying to oust him and other left-wing leaders in Latin America.

Earlier this week, the United States imposed sanctions against Venezuela as Maduro moved closer to rule by decree.

In a resolution passed by 384 votes to 75, the European Parliament called on the government of the oil-rich South American nation to release all those detained and to end its opposition crackdown.

"The Venezuelan authorities must immediately release all peaceful protesters, students and opposition leaders arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and fundamental rights," the resolution said.

"The government must also put an end to the political persecution and repression of the democratic opposition," it said.

The resolution, sponsored by the centre-right European Peoples` Party, named opposition figures Antonio Ledezma, Leopoldo Lopez and Daniel Ceballos among those being held.

"MEPs are concerned that new protests could lead to more violence, which would further polarise the already sensitive political developments in Venezuela," it added.

Venezuela`s ambassador to the EU, Antonio Garcia, told AFP the vote was part of a wider campaign against his country and driven by domestic considerations in some member states such as Spain.

"It is not a secret to anyone that Venezuela is being used in Spain`s internal politics," Garcia said, apparently referring to gains there by the left-wing Podemos party.

Recent polls suggest Podemos could win upcoming elections on the same anti-austerity programme which brought the left-wing Syriza party to power in Greece in January.

Earlier this week, the European Union said it had no immediate plans to follow the US lead and impose sanctions against Venezuela but it was watching developments closely.

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