June 23, 2015 / 5:25 PM / 4 years ago

Jailed Venezuela opposition leader Lopez ends hunger strike

A man walks behind a cardboard figure of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez at the headquarters of political party Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) in Caracas June 5, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

CARACAS (Reuters) - Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez ended a 30-day hunger strike on Tuesday after one of his demands, that a date be set for this year’s parliamentary election, was met.

The hard-line opposition leader was imprisoned in 2014 for his role in violent anti-government street protests that left more than 40 dead. Supporters call him a political prisoner, while President Nicolas Maduro dismisses him as a criminal.

“We began this protest not to die, but so that all Venezuelans can live with dignity,” Lopez wrote in a letter read out by his wife, Lilian Tintori, during a news conference. “We are lifting the (hunger) strike, but the fight continues.”

Former San Cristobal mayor Daniel Ceballos, also jailed last year on accusations he fomented protests in his convulsed western Venezuelan city, ended a hunger strike earlier this month.

Lopez’s demands include the release of political prisoners and international observation of the upcoming elections.

Venezuela’s electoral authority on Monday said the parliamentary election will be held on Dec. 6, ending lengthy speculation over the date for a vote that opinion polls show is likely to punish the ruling Socialist Party.

Ceballos and Lopez have become a cause celebre for international rights activists who call their detention evidence that the ruling Socialist Party is repressing dissent.

South African Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently described them “prisoners of conscience,” and a group of Brazilian senators stirred up a minor diplomatic spat last week by making an ultimately failed attempt to visit Lopez in prison.

Maduro calls the 2014 protests a Washington-backed attempt to overthrow his government and says he has no intention of releasing the two.

Reporting by Paula Andino and Anina Roche, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Peter Galloway

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