June 11, 2015 / 8:11 PM / 2 years ago

Jailed former mayor ends hunger strike in Venezuela

CARACAS (Reuters) - A former Venezuelan mayor jailed last year for his role in anti-government protests has ended a 20-day hunger strike that supporters said had weakened him and triggered kidney pain, his wife said on Thursday.

Daniel Ceballos, formerly mayor of the opposition hotbed of San Cristobal in western Venezuela, had stopped eating to demand the release of jailed politicians and that the government set a date for this year’s parliamentary elections.

“I received a call from my husband @Daniel_Ceballos who told me he decided to stop his hunger strike today, they’re already giving him serum intravenously,” tweeted Patricia de Ceballos, who won a landslide victory in the San Cristobal mayoral election after her spouse’s arrest.

Hours afterwards, Venezuelan government ombudsman Tarek William Saab announced on Twitter that Ceballos was being transferred to a new place of detention in Caracas.

Fellow jailed hardline opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez started a partial hunger strike 18 days ago. It was not immediately clear if he too would resume eating.

President Nicolas Maduro says the pair are responsible for more than 40 deaths during last year’s massive anti-government demonstrations and that he has no plans to order their release.

Both men were held at the Ramo Verde military prison until Ceballos was transferred to the San Juan civilian jail in the central state of Guarico last month.

Ceballos’s wife said she hoped to have dinner with him in prison, and that he had asked that she bring soup.

Some moderates in the opposition have criticized the high-profile hunger strikes as distractions from this year’s key elections and Venezuela’s day-to-day problems, which include shortages of everything from medicines to milk, severe crime rates, and soaring inflation that gobbles up purchasing power.

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Girish Gupta; Editing by Peter Galloway, Bernard Orr

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