Venezuelan hunger striker Franklin Brito dies over farm seizure

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The Independent US

A Venezuelan farmer who died after a hunger strike to protest against President Hugo Chavez's land takeovers has become a symbol for the oppressed, his family said.

Just weeks before a parliamentary election, Franklin Brito, 49, died on Monday at a Caracas military hospital where he had been taken after demonstrating in a public square.

The government did not comment on his death, but in the past had said Mr Brito was mentally unstable and had rejected efforts to return his land. Authorities accuse the opposition of exploiting Mr Brito.

Mr Brito's family said the government had not allowed him to see a doctor of his own choice. "That's why, for now, his family will not give opinions on the direct cause of his death, given the strange and inhuman circumstances," relatives said.

"What we can say is that Franklin Brito's struggle continues... He has left his human form to become a symbol and flag for all those oppressed by the arrogance of power."

Mr Brito's 59 acres of yucca and watermelon plants in southern Bolivar state were seized in 2003 – as part of the roughly 6.2 million acres expropriated by President Chavez's government, which argues that the policy aims to reverse long-standing injustices. Mr Brito had camped for months outside the office of the Organisation of American States, sewed his mouth shut and even chopped off a finger in front of television cameras.

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