CARACAS: A Venezuelan ruling party governor called for the release of all jailed protesters on Monday in a rare public split within President Nicolas Maduro's ranks after nearly three weeks of deadly anti-government demonstrations.

Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora, the governor of the western state of Tachira where the student-led protests began on Feb 4, also criticised the use of the military in response to the protests, calling it “a grave error” and an “unacceptable excess.”

The development came as Maduro was preparing to meet with the nation's governors and his call Sunday for a national dialogue.

At least 14 people have been killed and 140 others injured in the protests, which have posed the greatest challenge to Maduro's government since he was narrowly elected president last year to succeed the late leftist icon Hugo Chavez. Forty-five people remain under arrest.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega said 13 people had lost their lives as of Sunday, and on Monday a protester was killed falling from a roof as he tried to take cover from tear gas.

Vielma's criticism carried weight because, besides being a governor, he is a former military officer who took part in an abortive coup led by Chavez in 1992.

“All those who are in jail for political reasons, send them home,” Vielma said in a radio interview. “Including Simonovis, including Leopoldo Lopez.” Lopez is a prominent opposition leader who was jailed last week after the protests turned violent.—AFP

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