Venezuela's Maduro pardons dozens of political opponents

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. File photo   | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Venezuelan government said Monday that it had pardoned more than 100 people, including dozens of political opponents who are in prison, have taken refuge in foreign embassies in Caracas or fled the country.

The announcement of the pardons came days after authorities released on house arrest lawmaker Juan Requesens, who was jailed for two years and accused of taking part in a failed attempt to attack President Nicolŕs Maduro with two drones that exploded during an outdoor military ceremony.

Also read: Venezuela cracks down on Opposition

The move comes ahead of congressional elections set for Dec. 6 that the coalition led by U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidū says it is boycotting because conditions for the vote are not fair.

The names listed in the pardon don’t include prominent opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lūpez, who remains inside a foreign ambassador’s residence in Caracas, or Julio Borges, a powerful opposition lawmaker who is in neighboring Colombia.

Relatives of some people on the list who were detained in a Caracas-area prisons rushed to its gates following the government’s announcement.

The Caracas-based prisoner rights group Foro Penal said 50 of those to be pardoned were what the opposition considers politically motivated. Roughly two dozen are lawmakers in the National Assembly.

Minister of Communications Jorge Rodrţguez listed 110 people being pardoned, although the terms of the announced amnesty were not clear.

"The government’s intention is to deepen the process of reconciliation for national unity so that political issues are settled by peaceful means and by electoral means,” Rodrţguez said.

Maduro’s government framed the presidential decree as a goodwill gesture to boost participation in the upcoming election. It wasn’t immediately clear whether jailed political actors would walk free and those seeking refuge in foreign embassies would step out the gates without fearing reprisals.

Geoff Ramsey, a Washington D.C.-based Venezuela researcher at the Washington Office on Latin America, said this is clearly the product of backdoor negotiations between the Maduro government and moderate sectors in the opposition, which don’t include Guaidū.

The fact they are openly negotiating in defiance of the U.S. government and Guaidū shows that a growing part of Venezuela’s opposition has become frustrated with Venezuela’s political stalemate, he said.

"They’re more interested in pursuing incremental agreements rather than insisting that Maduro has to go before anything meaningful can be negotiated,” Ramsey said. “The big question is whether this will go beyond political prisoners to include things like free and fair elections.”

Venezuela is gripped by an economic and political crisis that has sent more than 5 million fleeing in recent years, escaping scarcities of basic goods and soaring inflation that has left many struggling in poverty.

Mr. Guaidū for over a year has led a campaign backed by the United States and dozens of other countries to oust Mr. Maduro, who remains in power with backing from the military and international allies like Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey and Iran.

Among the lawmakers listed in Mr. Maduro’s pardon decree is Freddy Guevara, who has lived in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas for nearly three years.

Two jailed lawmakers in the list are Renzo Prieto and Gilber Caro, while Josş Guerra, Tomŕs Guanipa, Mariela Magallanes and Amşrico de Grazia live outside of Venezuela, leaving under the threat of being arrested on accusations they want to overthrow Maduro.

"Maduro is not our president and I am no criminal,” De Grazia, who lives in Italy, said on Twitter, addressing Maduro. “If you wish to contribute to Venezuela’s peace, pardon the country from this autocracy.”

Mr. Garcţa leads ProCitizens, a small political party that is opposed to Mr. Maduro but not part of the opposition coalition led by Mr. Guaidū and Mr. Guaidū’s mentor Leopoldo Lūpez.

"I agree that we need as much participation as possible from our political parties,” Mr. Garcţa said. “The path of violence that the Popular Will Party of Leopoldo Lūpez sold to Washington is over, and now we have an electoral path, which is gaining strength.”

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 4:48:10 AM |

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