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Punishing Dissent in Venezuela

Maria Daniela kisses her father Daniel Ceballos, former mayor of the western city of San Cristobal, as he looks out from an apartment window with his wife Patricia de Ceballos, right, daughter Maria Veronica, left, and son Juan Daniel in Caracas, Venezuel

Authorities in Venezuela have again imprisoned opposition leader Daniel Ceballos.

Punishing Dissent in Venezuela
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Authorities in Venezuela have again imprisoned opposition leader Daniel Ceballos. Mr. Ceballos, the former mayor of the western city of San Cristobal, had been released from prison last year and placed under house arrest for health reasons. He was arrested in March 2014 for allegedly inciting violence during protests against food shortages, high inflation, and rampant crime.

Mr. Ceballos carried out a hunger strike in May and June of 2015 to demand that the government release political prisoners and set a date for legislative elections. On June 3, of that year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly requested that the government provide medical attention to and release Daniel Ceballos, as well as political prisoners Leopoldo Lopez, Raul Emilio Baduel, and Alexander Tirado who were also on a hunger strike. On August 11, 2015, authorities released Ceballos to house arrest.

On August 27th -- just days before national demonstrations for political and economic reforms were to take place -- the Venezuelan government revoked his house arrest and in the middle of the night transferred him to prison. Opposition leaders believe Mr. Ceballos is a political prisoner and his arrest was an effort to quash dissent.

In a press statement issued August 28th, John Kirby
U.S. State Department Spokesperson, said, “The United States is deeply disturbed by the Venezuelan government's decision to move opposition leader Daniel Ceballos from house arrest to prison.‎

Mr. Ceballos' transfer to prison represents an effort to intimidate and impede the Venezuelan people's right to peacefully express their opinion. We condemn it and call for Mr. Ceballos' immediate release.

The basic underpinnings of the rule of law in Venezuela have degraded to an alarming degree. There is no place in a democratic society for employing the instruments of the state to bully, intimidate, and silence the political opposition.”

The September 1 marches proceeded largely without incident, but Mr. Ceballos and others detained in the days leading up to them remain incarcerated. Further, the government deported or barred entry to at least six international journalists who had planned to cover the demonstrations. On September 3 the government detained journalist Braulio Jatar on Isla Margarita after he published news of a local anti-Maduro protest on his Margarita-based website, Reporte Confidencial.

The United States is deeply concerned by the detentions and restrictions on press freedom before and after the march, and the ongoing serious human rights issues in Venezuela.