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Venezuelan students end hunger strike

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Students had been on a hunger strike demanding the release of political prisoners
  • The strikers and Venezuelan government reached several agreements
  • The hunger strike lasted 23 days

(CNN) -- A 23-day hunger strike by Venezuelan students demanding the release of people they identified as political prisoners came to an end Tuesday, the strike's leader said. CNN affiliate Globovision reported that the strikers reached a deal with the Venezuelan government to free seven prisoners.

Leader Lorent Saleh said the protesters and government had reached a number of agreements, including medical attention for some prisoners, freedom for others and the creation of a roundtable with authorities to discuss other demands.

"Today we are completing 23 days since we started a promise we made to fight for liberty and democracy, and for those who fiind themselves behind bars for thinking differently than this regime," Saleh said.

The government's stance has been to deny that there are political prisoners in Venezuela, and that the people in question were in prison for crimes ranging from corruption to homicide. However, the government also publicly said that it wanted a dialogue with the students.

At least 82 students were participating in hunger strikes across the country. In the capital, Caracas, alone, there were 29 who camped out in front of the Organization of American States building and in front of the embassies of Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and Brazil.

The students were demanding that OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza come to Venezuela to study the human rights issue. Saleh said that one of the group's victories Tuesday was that the OAS would discuss its complaints.

The end of the hunger strike comes one day after four strikers, including Saleh, fainted from their conditions. Doctors were checking on them three times a day.

The hunger strike was not just for the liberation of the political prisoners, Saleh said, but for all prisoners who had reportedly had their human rights violated. In another conciliatory move, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami agreed to visit the Planta prison together with student representatives to inspect its conditions.

Journalist Osmary Hernandez Sosa contributed to this report.