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Venezuela opposition says lawmaker’s death was assassination, not suicide

Venezolanos protestan frente a la sede del SEBIN por muerte del concejal Fernando AlbánVenezolanos protestan frente a la sede del SEBIN por muerte del concejal Fernando AlbánThe disputed jailhouse death of an opposition councilman arrested on allegations of plotting to kill President Nicolas Maduro has triggered alarm among many Venezuelans and swift condemnation from several foreign dignitaries.

Venezuela’s government said on Monday that Fernando Alban took his own life by leaping from the 10th floor of the state intelligence agency’s headquarters. But opposition leaders denied the official version and a few dozen of Alban’s supporters gathered outside the building yelling “Maduro killer!” contending that he had been murdered.

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“There’s no doubt this was an assassination,” opposition leader Julio Borges said in a video from exile in neighboring Colombia, without providing evidence of his claim. “The only thing left for this government is torture, violence and destruction.”

Alban, 56, was taken into custody Friday at Caracas’ international airport upon arriving from New York, according to his lawyer. He was in the U.S. accompanying other members of his First Justice party for meetings with foreign dignitaries attending the United Nations General Assembly.

While Venezuelans last year watched as dozens of youths were killed in violent street battles with security forces, the death of activists or government opponents while in state custody is a fate more associated with the far deadlier, right-wing dictatorships that dominated much of South America in the 1970s.

The opposition claims that more than 100 Venezuelans opposed to Maduro are being held as “political prisoners,” some for more than four years, with little access to the outside world and their legal rights routinely trampled on. The government denies they are political prisoners.

Some compared the incident with Alban to another suspicious death from Venezuela’s own dark past: the passing in prison in 1976 of socialist militant Jorge Rodriguez, the father of current Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and her brother, also named Jorge Rodriguez, a top aide to Maduro. Also considered a suicide in its day, Rodriguez is now deemed to have died from injuries suffered from torture.

Read more: Global News