Imprisoned opposition leader subjected to psychological torture, wife claims

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez looks out from his cell in the military prison Ramo Verde, where he was held.

The wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said that her husband is subjected to psychological torture, being kept in complete isolation and not allowed to see his family at the military prison where he has been detained for five months.

"Again Leopoldo Lopez is subjected to isolation, not allowed to receive visits from his wife, two children and parents, until the day of his trial on 23 July," said Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, in a statement.

Lopez, former mayor of the Chacao district of Caracas and the leader of the Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) opposition party, has been held in the military prison Ramo Verde since February, accused of promoting violent acts in the Venezuelan capital.

"The Nicolas Maduro regime seeks to break Lopez's with psychological torture," Tintori's statement added.

Tintori added that "after a call from the jail's payphone, a right enshrined in the Code of Prisons, to a group of friends in which he sent a message of optimism, strength and faith, he has been prohibited from visiting with his family," and he is isolated from other prisoners.

The authorities have not commented on the status of incarceration Lopez.

In May, Tintori also reported that Lopez's visits were suspended for two weeks for "writing letters." If convicted, Lopez could face a sentence of 13 years and nine months in prison.

Opposition former mayors Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano, and former police chief Ivan Simonovis, are also held in the military prison.

Details of newspaper sale still a mystery

A week after the announcement of the sale of the oldest newspaper in Venezuela, El Universal, to the Spanish company Epalisticia, details of the transaction remain a mystery.

It is rumored that the sale could have been for as much as $90 million. However, Jose Luis Basanta, the alleged lawyer of Epalisticia, told Bloomberg News that the sale was for less than $22 million.

Little to no details are known about the new owners of the newspaper, which has been one of the strongest opposition voices against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

The newly appointed president of the newspaper, Jesus Abreu Anselmi, who served as deputy minister of infrastructure in the 1980s and is an expert in rescuing troubled companies, has not given any details about the new owners.

Without referring to the owners by name, Abreu denied that they have business ties with the Maduro government and assured the newsroom that the editorial line of the newspaper will be maintained.

"Not only we will be critical of the government, but all that is necessary to criticize," said Abreu.

Created in 1909, El Universal is the third opposition media to be sold since the death of President Hugo Chavez and the rise to power of Maduro.

Since Maduro has been in power, the newspaper has criticized, among other things, lack of newsprint. At least 11 publications in Venezuela ceased their print editions and 80 have been forced to reduce their circulation and the amount of pages since August of last year.

"It is disturbing that publications that have been vocal criticism of the government have been under economic pressures that challenged their existence," said the International Press Institute. "We hope the change in ownership of El Universal does not limit its editorial independence, as this would hinder the ability of the people of Venezuela to access a broad spectrum of opinions."

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