Venezuela's leaders release proof-of-life video of jailed activist Lopez

Venezuela's ruling party has been forced to play a video of a jailed opposition leader on state TV after rumours spread across the deeply divided country that he had died in prison.

Leopoldo Lopez's panicked wife rushed to the military hospital in the capital, Caracas, after a prominent journalist said the activist had been taken from jail without any vital signs.

"Please, can you inform us if anyone brought Leopoldo here? Did he enter or not?" Lilian Tintori pleaded through the metal bars at the hospital's entrance.

Hours later on his own weekly TV show, Diosdado Cabello, the leader of the Venezuela's socialist party, played a 20-second clip of Mr Lopez speaking inside jail.

"I don't understand why they want me to send a proof of life," Lopez says. "I'm sending this message to my family, to my kids, to say I'm fine."

In the video he identifies the date as 3 May.

The confusion over the former mayor's fate came as a series of protests shake President Nicolas Maduro's grip on power.

More than 30 people have died as anger against the unpopular Mr Maduro, who has presided over a devastating recession that has brought food and medicine shortages, has grown.

University students are planning more protests on Thursday after 300 people were injured during rallies against plans to rewrite the constitution.

Lilian Tintori, Mr Lopez's wife, has accused the government of "kidnapping" the opposition leader in a bid to silence the protests.

She says he has been not been allowed to receive visitors at the Ramo Verde jail for over a month and does not believe that the video proves he is safe.

"The dictatorship's video is FALSE. The only proof of life that we will accept is to see Leopoldo," she tweeted with a picture of her and Mr Lopez's mother in front of National Guard soldiers outside the prison.

Mr Cabello said the opposition was trying to make a "political show" over Mr Lopez, who was jailed in 2014 for inciting violence.

"He's there in his cave, stuck there for the next 13 years like he should be for being an assassin," he said.

"We haven't done anything to the monster of Ramo Verde."

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