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Venezuela Releases Political Prisoners

FILE - Delcy Rodriguez, president of the National Constituent Assembly talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 28, 2017.

Venezuela's leftist government released the first of 80 prisoners promised to be freed Sunday, in a rare goodwill gesture to the opposition.

Reuters reported that 36 of the 80 were released Sunday.

President Nicolas Maduro's government announced Saturday that it would release at least 80 people who were detained after participating in anti-government demonstrations.

The prisoners were being released one at a time.

Rights groups say the government is holding as many 268 political prisoners.

Maduro says that all of those jailed were in prison on legitimate charges of plotting to overthrow the government and promoting violence. The 80 pardoned to spend Christmas with their families have been released on alternative sentences including community service.

Roughly 170 people have been killed in two rounds of anti-Maduro protests which turned violent in 2014 and earlier this year.