Female relatives of jailed Venezuelan dissidents chain themselves in front of Vatican

Three female relatives – two mothers and a wife – of Venezuelan political prisoners have taken their plight to St. Peter’s Square in front of the Vatican, hoping that Pope Francis will hear their plea and help negotiate the release of their loved ones, two of more than 100 opponents of President Nicolás Maduro currently jailed in Venezuela.

The Vatican is mediating negotiations between the opposition and Maduro’s socialist government, which are expected to resume on Tuesday.

The women are Liliana Tintori and Antonieta López – wife and mother of Leopoldo López, the founder of the opposition Voluntad Popular party – as well as Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, the wife of former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

On Sunday, the trio chained themselves to a fence in St. Peter’s Square, and, on Monday, according to UPI, they moved to a different part of of the plaza where they held prayer sessions.

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"The Vatican is part of a dialogue that has begun in Venezuela, and that dialogue has not worked," Tintori told El Universal newspaper.

The 45-year-old López has been held for more than 1,000 days on conspiracy charges, accused of inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014.

"We feel that there is no respect for our Holy Father or the Vatican as a mediator. There have been several meetings but there is no response to this horror that we are seeing,” Tintori said. “We have loved ones locked in dungeons."

López's mother said she was there to give voice to "every mother, every wife, every sister” of the 106 prisoners.

"I represent the pain and suffering of Venezuelan mothers who see their children humiliated, beaten, tortured and innocent, and they are imprisoned for exercising their right to dissent," she said.

López, a Harvard-educated former mayor of the Chacao section of Caracas, has denied that he incited violence. International human rights groups consider him South America's highest-profile political prisoner. His conviction has been widely condemned as a sham trial by foreign governments, including the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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