Conflicts & War

“Humanitarian exchange”: proposal by families of Venezuela’s political prisoners

Hector Pereira

Caracas, Sep 1 (EFE).- Relatives and lawyers of Venezuelan political prisoners are promoting the idea of a “humanitarian exchange” to free their loved ones in return for some concessions to the government.

An option they admit is “desperate” after years of no progress.

The Coalition for Human Rights and Democracy, organization representing dozens of political prisoners, proposed this initiative.

The details have yet to be defined, but according to the legal organizations, the families of the prisoners support the possible exchange.

There are currently 292 “political prisoners” in Venezuela awaiting never-ending trials.

The defendants maintain their innocence while the government accuses them of conspiracy, terrorism, and treason against their country.

Lawyers and family members believe that one way to “unlock” the crisis is to build trust so that dialogue and negotiations can flourish so they can find a political solution to the legal situation of these people..


The director of the Coalition, Ana Leonor Acosta, explained to EFE that this proposal aims to help those imprisoned for political reasons, including 174 soldiers and 13 trade unionists.

“We have reached an impasse where the trials are not going forward (…) that is why we are discussing a humanitarian exchange,” she said.

The lawyer noted that someone other than them would tell President Nicolás Maduro what to ask since they want to recognize the requests of their counterparts and accept them “with respect.

However, some possible ideas exist, such as the case of Colombian businessman Alex Saab, imprisoned in the United States for money laundering conspiracy.

The Venezuelan government claims he is a diplomat and has reached great lengths to secure his release.

Another possible interest of the officialist party is lifting the international economic embargo.

The proponents of the prisoner exchange do not exclude these scenarios, Acosta explains, claiming that they can achieve this through agreements at the dialogue table between the government and the opposition.

Although they do not have the authority or power to release someone held in another country or to lift sanctions, they are willing to support the government’s request. But there is no guarantee that the U.S. will comply.

“It is not a legal decision (…) we are talking about a political situation, (…) a negotiation and a dialogue for the reunification of society,” she stressed.

The lawyer hopes that other human rights organizations will join this proposal, which they plan to present to international organizations and actors involved in the political negotiations in Venezuela, such as the governments of Colombia and France and the former president of the Spanish government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.


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