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Venezuela frees opposition activist with US citizenship

October 19, 2016 - 9:21 AM

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela has freed an opposition activist with dual U.S. citizenship after keeping him jailed for four months.

Francisco Marquez immediately left the country under the terms of his release on Tuesday. He was arrested in June while taking part in a nationwide recall campaign against President Nicolas Maduro. Prosecutors said Marquez had nearly $3,000 in local currency and was trying to foment violence. His backers say the allegation is false and meant to intimidate government opponents.

Marquez was arrested along with a fellow activist from the Popular Will opposition party. The other activist, who has dual Spanish citizenship, was released in September and went into exile in Spain.

Members of the opposition cheered Marquez's release, but said the government had succeeded in driving away two important opposition activists who had chosen to stay and fight for Venezuela at a time when many middle class young people have left.

Marquez, a graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, had been working as chief of staff for an opposition mayor in Caracas.

Thomas Shannon, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, visited Caracas over the summer and called on Maduro to release Marquez and other jailed activists widely considered political prisoners. Shannon has been trying to thaw relations with Venezuela, and has made several trips to the South American country, so far with few indications of success.

Venezuelan officials did not say why they were releasing Marquez, who had been charged with money laundering.

Venezuela continues to hold another high-profile U.S. prisoner arrested in June: 24 year-old Utah resident Joshua Holt, who came to Venezuela to marry a woman he met online and was arrested on weapons charges for allegedly possessing weapons that his attorneys say were planted.

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Hannah Dreier is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hannahdreier. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/hannah-dreier.

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News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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