August 8, 2014 / 6:29 PM / 5 years ago

Chile youth leader freed in Venezuela, going to Santiago

CARACAS/SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A right-wing Chilean youth leader was freed on Friday after his detention late on Thursday in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, sparked protests from officials in Chile and from opposition leaders in Venezuela.

Following negotiations between Chilean and Venezuelan officials, Felipe Cuevas, who heads the youth wing of Chile’s conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, was freed and scheduled to board a plane back to Santiago later on Friday, said UDI General Secretary Javier Macaya.

Chile’s “foreign affairs minister unofficially told us that Felipe Cuevas was being set free and was on his way to the airport. This is obviously good news, but we won’t stop being worried until Felipe arrives in Chile,” Macaya said.

Cuevas was arrested for taking photos in an unauthorized place and for not carrying identification, Chile’s ambassador to Venezuela said earlier in the day.

The spokesman for Chile’s center-left government, cabinet minister Alvaro Elizalde, said Venezuela’s ambassador had been called in to discuss the incident, stating the government would carry “out all actions it can to resolve this situation.”

In Caracas, Cuevas had attempted to visit anti-government protesters arrested earlier this year, and was detained along with several Venezuelan activists, said Maria Corina Machado, a fierce critic of Venezuela’s socialist government and a former legislator.

Cuevas was invited to Venezuela by opposition figures and met with Machado during his stay, Machado said. She said he also attended the trial of detained protest leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Ernesto Silva, leader of Chile’s opposition UDI party, which includes several former collaborators of late dictator Augusto Pinochet, criticized the Maduro government for not releasing information about Cuevas’s arrest.

The head of Chile’s lower house foreign relations committee, Jorge Tarud of the governing Nueva Mayoria bloc, had demanded the immediate release of Cuevas and threatened diplomatic measures if he was not freed on Friday.

Additional reporting by Antonio de la Jara, writing by Julia Symmes Cobb, Rosalba O'Brien and Anthony Esposito; editing by Peter Galloway

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