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Jailed Venezuela leader says he won't negotiate freedom

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2016 file photo, supporters of Venezuela's jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez hold posters of him during a protest demanding the release of Lopez and other jailed opposition leaders, on the second anniversary of his imprisonment, in Caracas, Venezuela. Spain's former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had a surprise jailhouse meeting with Lopez on June 4, 2016. It's the first time an outside visitor besides Lopez's family or lawyers have met with Lopez in the military prison where he's been held for over two years. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)
June 06, 2016 - 2:48 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's most-prominent jailed opposition leader said he won't negotiate his own freedom if it means abandoning the effort to recall President Nicolas Maduro.

The charismatic hardliner Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced to nearly 14 years in jail for inciting violence at anti-government demonstrations in 2014.

He met with Spain's former prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Saturday as part of a diplomatic effort to defuse Venezuela's escalating crisis. It was the first jailhouse meeting of its kind in more than two years.

Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori on Sunday posted messages to his Twitter account saying Lopez had told the Spanish politician that Venezuela's freedom came before his own. He said he would not abandon the recall effort in exchange for anything, the jailed leader told his family.

Lopez's defiance comes as government and opposition representatives travelled to the Dominican Republic for a second round of informal meetings under Zapatero's mediation.

It's not clear what is being discussed at those talks and both sides are downplaying the chances of a breakthrough.

The opposition is demanding freedom for Lopez and others it considers political prisoners as well as government commitment to hold a recall referendum this year on whether to cut short Maduro's term.

On Tuesday, the opposition plans protests nationwide to demand electoral authorities allow the process to go forward.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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