October 1, 2009 / 3:25 PM / 9 years ago

Venezuelan students call off hunger strike

CARACAS, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Venezuelan students protesting President Hugo Chavez’s government called off a weeklong hunger strike after one of their leaders was released from jail.

About 150 students had joined the protest, many lying on mattresses outside the Caracas office of the Organization of American States. They say the government has jailed dozens of Chavez critics on politically motivated charges.

Government officials deny the claims.

Students have emerged as a force in Venezuela’s opposition movement, which has failed to loosen the socialist president’s grip on power in the South American oil-exporter.

"All the objectives have been achieved," student leader Rebeca Rojas said as the hunger-strike was ended late on Wednesday to cheers and raised fists.

Student activist Julio Rivas was released on Monday, but still faces assault charges related to a previous protest.

The protesters were also cheered by comments from OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza supporting a visit from the group’s human rights commission and saying he was prepared to meet some of the students in Washington.

The government, which is blocking a rights commission visit, has mocked the students’ protest. Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, called it a "pantomime" and accused the students of secretly eating pork pies during the night. (Reporting by Patricia Rondon; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Kevin Gray and Doina Chiacu)

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