The Americas

Venezuela provides 'proof of life' video of jailed leader, but family wants Red Cross

The family of an imprisoned high-profile Venezuelan opposition leader on Friday urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the penitentiary where he is being held and verify his health status and the conditions of his confinement.

Leopoldo Lopez was convicted in September 2015 of inciting violence during street protests the year before against leftist President Nicolas Maduro and sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison. The opposition says the trial was politically motivated.

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His father, who is also named Leopoldo Lopez, gave a press conference Friday in Madrid, where one of his son's attorneys, former Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, termed his client's imprisonment as "preventative kidnapping" and said it was a warning to other Maduro opponents amid anti-government protests in recent weeks.

Lopez's family called on the Red Cross to send a representative to the Ramo Verde military prison in the north-central Venezuelan state of Miranda, saying he has been held incommunicado there for a month.

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Venezuelan state television aired a "proof of life" video this week amid rumors that his health had deteriorated, although Lopez's family has questioned the authenticity of the footage.

"It's our urgent demand that we see Leopoldo Lopez," the inmate's sister, Diana Lopez, said at the press conference, adding that "we do not accept the video as proof of life."

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Venezuela's political crisis has worsened in recent weeks, with the opposition staging daily protests to demand new elections.

More than two-dozen people have died and hundreds have been injured in the protests, which also have been triggered by the South American nation's severe recession and food and medicine shortages.