VENEZUELA: Student hunger strike ends

Venezuelan student protestors have agreed to end a hunger strike that they had been taking part in for the previous 23 days. Organised by opposition youth group Active Youth, Venezuela United (JAVU), the strike began on 31 January with only nine students but quickly grew until more than 80 people were participating.

The protesters, who were on strike in the Venezuelan capital Caracas as well as several other cities around the country, were said to be ingesting only water and a saline solution.

The initial demands of the strikers included the release of what they referred to as 27 'political prisoners' as well as the admittance to Venezuela of the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza, so that he might review the human rights situation within the country.

A JAVU communiqué declared: "We have taken the decision to put our lives at risk for the purpose of having our voices heard by the Organisation of American States.

"Our hunger strike aims to highlight the unsustainable situation of the systematic violation of our human rights by the government of Hugo Chavez against those who openly disagree with their ideas and official policies."

Just a day after four of the hunger strikers fainted and had to be briefly hospitalised, the Venezuelan government offered the protesters a proposal that they agreed was acceptable enough to end the strike.

The government agreed to release some of the prisoners, provide better medical attention to others, and create a forum for the protesters, family members of the imprisoned, and the authorities to meet and discuss the situation further. One prisoner has already been released.