US rules out prisoner swap with Venezuela
The United States has rejected a proposal by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to swap a jailed opposition leader for a Puerto Rican nationalist held in a US prison.
Washington: The United States has rejected a proposal by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to swap a jailed opposition leader for a Puerto Rican nationalist held in a US prison.
"There`s no comparison, in our view, between these cases," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.
She also noted that the offer had been made in a press conference by Maduro rather than through the usual "diplomatic channels."
On Sunday, Maduro proposed exchanging opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been detained since last February on charges of inciting violent protests, for jailed Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera.
That would be the best way of improving frosty ties between the two countries, he suggested.
"You want good relations? We do too, without any conditions," said Maduro, who labelled Lopez a "monster."
"I say the only way is for me to use my presidential powers to free him, put him on a plane to the United States and leave him there. And they deliver Oscar Lopez Rivera ... a man for a man," Maduro said.
Lopez Rivera, a member of the Puerto Rican militant group FALN, has been serving a prison term since 1981. He was convicted of seditious conspiracy, use of force to commit robbery, transporting weapons across state lines and conspiring to bomb government property. In 1999, he refused an offer of clemency by then president Bill Clinton.
Psaki slammed Maduro for proposing to exile opposition leaders instead of addressing concerns about violence and political detentions against demonstrators who led protests against his rule last year.
Thousands of activists were arrested and more than 43 people were killed during the mass demonstrations against Maduro`s government, which raged from February to May.
"We`ve repeatedly called for the release of all political prisoners, a call that has been echoed by many international and multinational entities," Psaki said.
"President Maduro proposes exiling opposition figures rather than having a discussion about the real concerns and problems facing Venezuela," she added.
She also insisted that Leopoldo Lopez "should be presumed innocent" saying it was "unfortunate" that he "is being sentenced on national television by Venezuela`s president without the conclusion of a trial."