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Venezuela frees opposition activist amid ongoing dialogue

November 18, 2016
Rosmit Mantilla

Rosmit Mantilla, wearing a T-shirt with the image of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, and waving a rainbow flag, stands surrounded by members of his party, "Voluntad Popular, prior a news conference outside of a hospital, in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. Mantilla spoke with the media members after being released from jail as part of Vatican-sponsored negotiations with the government. Mantilla, who is also a LGBT rights activist, was jailed during anti-government protests in 2014. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela has freed an opposition activist jailed for his role in 2014 anti-government protests as a sign of goodwill amid ongoing talks to mitigate the country’s political crisis.

Rosmit Mantilla of the Popular Will party, one of Venezuela’s most radical opposition parties, was released on Thursday night.

He immediately went to a hospital for gall bladder surgery. On Friday, looking pale but joyous, he vowed to fight for the liberation of other political prisoners.

“My promise to all Venezuelans is to keep working for the Venezuela of the future, for the Venezuela of change,” he said.

Popular Will cheered his release, but said that another 100 political prisoners remain behind bars. Amnesty International seconded the call for Venezuela to release more jailed opposition activists.

Mantilla, 33, was arrested in 2014 on charges that he helped foment violence during a wave of sometimes bloody anti-government protests. He was elected as an alternate congress member in December 2015 legislative elections.

He has championed gay rights causes in addition to the opposition demand that President Nicolas Maduro step down. He appeared at a press conference Friday holding a rainbow flag.

Mantilla lives with his grandparents, who kept his room untouched during his more than two years in prison.

The government has released a handful of activists since it joined Vatican-mediated talks last month.

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