Family members, activists say Venezuela detains six military, police officials

Venezuelan Minister of Communications and Information Jorge Rodriguez EPA-EFE  RAUL MARTINEZ

Venezuelan Minister of Communications and Information Jorge Rodriguez EPA-EFE RAUL MARTINEZ

Venezuela is caught in an economic crisis and a political standoff between Maduro and Guaido.

They also come on the heels of a visit to Venezuela by United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who on Friday called on Maduro to release prisoners arrested for peacefully protesting.

"I call on the authorities to free all those who are detained for peacefully exercising their civil and political rights", Bachelet said via webcast before departing Venezuela after a three-day visit. The UN rights chief met relatives of these detainees, many of whom are accused of "conspiracy" to overthrow the government.

According to Penal Forum, some 700 people are detained for political reasons in Venezuela, including about 100 members of the military.

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"I quickly realized that Maduro is the head of a criminal enterprise, with his own family involved", he said, accusing the president's son, Nicolas Maduro Guerra, of running an illicit scheme involving the sale of gold at high prices to Venezuela's central bank. Maduro, whose 2018 re-election has been widely denounced as illegitimate, said he would take the U.N.'s concerns seriously.

Bachelet, in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March, said Venezuelan security forces, backed by pro-government militias, had quashed peaceful protests with excessive use of force, killings and torture.

Yet it was the Maduro administration who called her to Venezuela, saying the visit would be a chance to demonstrate its commitment to human rights and the "negative repercussions" of sanctions that prevent it from trading its oil to the US.

Bachelet has also levelled sharp criticisms of United States sanctions against Maduro, forced by president Donald Trump, increasing anxieties that constraints on trade with Venezuela could have negative reverberations for the overall population in a nation where the trading of oil is 96 percent of the budget. She visited opposition leader and National Assembly head Juan Guaido on Friday morning, where he discussed the almost 700 political prisoners detained in Venezuela, according to NGO Penal Forum. She called for dialogue between the government and Guaido's opposition and spoke in support of Norway's efforts to broker talks. "I understand that some are skeptical that these sorts of negotiations will bear fruit, but the serious situation in the country demands that the leaders try", Bachelet said.

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