Venezuela’s gov’t pardons scores of political opponents

Caracas, Aug 31 (efe-epa).- Venezuela’s government on Monday said it has pardoned scores of political opponents, including jailed or exiled lawmakers, journalists detained on various charges and political activists.

The announcement was made by Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez at a press conference.

The 110 people being pardoned include lawmakers Freddy Guevara, Freddy Superlano and Miguel Pizarro and journalist Nicmer Evans, who is currently jailed at a General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence lockup.

They also include Roberto Marrero, who at the time of his detention was chief of staff to National Assembly speaker and self-proclaimed interim head of state Juan Guaido.

The pardons were granted via a decree that was signed by President Nicolas Maduro and expresses the government’s “supreme commitment” to achieving “peace and reconciliation.” It will take effect on the date it is published in Venezuela’s Official Gazette.

The president made the decision just three days after the granting of house arrest to opposition lawmaker Juan Requesens, who had been jailed for more than two years for his alleged role in a failed Aug. 4, 2018, drone attack on Maduro.

The pardons were granted within the scope of agreements reached between the government and opposition prior to the Dec. 6 legislative elections, Rodriguez said.

Even so, some leading opposition figures were left off of the list, including Leopoldo Lopez, who is being housed at the Spanish Embassy in Caracas.

However, the first vice president of the opposition-led National Assembly (AN), Juan Pablo Guanipa; and Henry Ramos Allup, leader of the social-democratic Democratic Action party and a leading opposition voice, were among the beneficiaries of the pardons.

Venezuela’s court system and Chavismo – the leftist political movement that is named after late President Hugo Chavez, who ruled from 1999 until his death in 2013, and is now led by Maduro – have employed different mechanisms to arrest and politically destroy dozens of lawmakers since December 2015, when the opposition dealt the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) a decisive defeat in parliamentary elections.

Of the 112 opposition lawmakers who won seats in the 2015 legislative elections (out of a possible total of 167 seats), all say they have faced some form of targeting or aggression.

The chief move against the opposition was the creation of the National Constituent Assembly, a plenipotentiary body that was founded in 2017 to override the AN and which is made up almost exclusively of Maduro allies.

Venezuela’s main opposition parties have vowed to boycott the Dec. 6 parliamentary election because they say Maduro is a dictator and that conditions are not in place for a free and fair vote. EFE-EPA


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