CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's top representative of the Roman Catholic Church urged President Hugo Chavez's government on Monday to free prisoners whom the opposition claims have been wrongly jailed because of politically motivated charges.
Talks between an opposition politician and Vice President Nicolas Maduro regarding the possible release of imprisoned Chavez foes stopped after the president announced last month he would travel to Cuba to undergo cancer-related surgery.
Cardinal Jorge Urosa said Chavez's government should not delay an amnesty that would allow the release of government opponents and permit others living in exile to return to Venezuela.
"The president's illness has postponed these measures, hopefully they will be acted upon," Urosa said, speaking during an interview broadcast on the local Globovision television channel.
Chavez had said he was open to dialogue with his adversaries after he won re-election in October.
Opponents say freeing Chavez adversaries and allowing those in exile to return would be an important step in that direction.
The president's political allies deny Chavez's opponents have been unfairly imprisoned on politically motivated charges.
"We deny there are any political prisoners," said Attorney General Cilia Flores, speaking at a Caracas church where government officials prayed for Chavez's recovery.
Opposition Congressman Edgar Zambrano said last month that government opponents who could benefit from an amnesty agreement include 87 Venezuelans living in exile as well as 22 prisoners. Zambrano said the list would eventually be presented to Maduro.