Venezuelan Politician Mourned After Suspicious Death

By The Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela’s chief prosecutor doubled down on Oct. 10, on claims that a jailed opposition activist killed himself, while the Trump administration condemned the government of President Nicolas Maduro for its alleged involvement in the suspicious death.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab appeared on state TV and said preliminary findings rule out foul play in the death of Fernando Alban. He held up a photo of an open window at the police headquarters where Alban had been held and cited autopsy results finding no injuries prior to those from the fatal impact of his fall from the 10th story of the building.

“All the evidence so far collected reveals the unfortunate circumstance that Alban committed suicide,” said Saab. “Be assured that we will get to the bottom of the investigation and find the truth.”

man mourns casket remains Fernando Alban
A man mourns over the flag-draped casket containing the remains of opposition activist Fernando Alban, during his funeral at a church in Caracas, Venezuela, on Oct. 10, 2018. (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

In Washington, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement condemning “the Maduro regime’s involvement” in Alban’s death.

She said the Trump administration would “continue to increase pressure on the Maduro regime and its insiders until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”

Opposition supporters, meanwhile, poured onto the streets of the capital sobbing and waving Venezuelan flags to join the funeral procession of the Caracas-area city councilman.

“We want justice!” mourners chanted, many directing their anger at the socialist president: “Maduro is a killer!”

People holds sign Fernando Alban
People hold up a sign that in Spanish reads “Maduro Assassin” as they walk next the hearse holding the remains of opposition activist Fernando Alban, during his funeral in Caracas, Venezuela, on Oct. 10, 2018. (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

Alban, 56, was arrested Oct. 5 at the capital’s international airport upon arrival from a trip to New York to galvanize world opinion against Maduro’s socialist government.

Officials say Alban was under investigation for a suspected role in an assassination attempt against Maduro, and abruptly ran to an open window on the 10th story of a police building and threw himself to his death on Oct. 8.

Opposition leaders, backed by several foreign governments, have accused Maduro’s government of torture and killing Alban.

The United Nations has urged officials in Caracas to launch an impartial investigation to resolve the conflicting versions of how Alban died.

The U.S. also has called for the immediate release of all Venezuelan political prisoners. The opposition claims that more than 100 Venezuelans opposed to Maduro are being held as political prisoners—some for more than four years.

The government denies they are political prisoners.

Vice President Mike Pence posted to Twitter his own condemnation, placing blame for Alban’s death on Maduro’s government.

“The regime continues to kill innocents & those standing up for democracy,” Pence said. “We stand w/ the Venezuelan people & demand the release of political prisoners.”

In Caracas, hundreds of mourners on foot trailed the hearse holding Alban’s casket the cemetery. They included Alban’s parents and prominent allies from Venezuela’s opposition movement.

Residents along the way—many elderly women—came from their homes as the procession passed.

Among them was Maria Betancourt, who never met Alban, but felt the need to show support for the late political leader.

“He represented in his fight what we all want—liberty in Venezuela, a democratic Venezuela,” she said. “We want what everybody in the world wants—opportunity. Not this disaster we’re living.”

By Scott Smith, Deb Riechmann and Ariana Cubillos

 
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