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Former Latin presidents press Venezuela on rights

CARACAS, Venezuela – Former leaders from Spain and Latin America called Monday, June 1, on Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro to free political prisoners, "respect fundamental rights and liberties" and create a climate for political dialogue.

The statement issued by 27 former leaders, followed Venezuela's refusal on Friday, May 29, to grant two former presidents access to prisons holding opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Daniel Ceballos.

The two have been jailed since early 2014, accused of inciting mass protests that led to months of clashes with police and government supporters in which 43 people were killed, mostly protesters.

"We urge the Venezuelan authorities to create a climate of dialogue and peace that reverses the evident noxious tendencies that affect the fundamental freedoms and rights of all Venezuelans," the statement said.

The signers demanded "the end of the persecutions and the freeing of political prisoners" as well as "fair and transparent" legislative elections, which are supposed to be held in late 2015.

Among those signing were former presidents Andres Pastrana of Colombia and Jorge Quiroga of Bolivia, who were prevented from visiting the prisons where Lopez and Ceballos are being held.

Other former heads of government who signed were Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, Fernando de la Rua of Argentina, Eduardo Frei and Sebastian Pinera of Chile, Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox of Mexico, Alejandro Toledo of Peru; Alvador Uribe and Belisario Betancur of Colombia. – Rappler.com