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News > Latin America

Controversial 'Amnesty' Law Approved by Venezuelan Congress

  • Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly, seen in this file photo, approved a controversial “amnesty” law.

    Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly, seen in this file photo, approved a controversial “amnesty” law. | Photo: EFE

Published 29 March 2016

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maudro said the law would protect killers, criminals, drug traffickers, and terrorists.

Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly approved Tuesday a highly controversial bill, that leftist lawmakers have said will only serve to grant immunity to convicted criminals.

President Nicolas Maduro, who can veto the bill, has maintained that he would block its implementation. The law must be published in the official government gazette before it has the force of law. 

Maudro said the law would “protect killers, criminals, drug traffickers, and terrorists.”

“You can be sure that this law will not cross this desk … laws to protect terrorists and criminals will not pass, whatever (right-wing politicians) try to do,” said Maduro. 

2 Venezuelan Police Killed by Protesters Who Commandeered Bus

The relatives of victims of right-wing political violence have repeatedly denounced the efforts by the country's right-wing opposition, which helped organize violent protests in 2014 known as Guarimbas, to pass legislation that would absolve the perpetrators of the violence. 

A spokesperson from the Committee of Victims of the Guarimbas said right-wing lawmakers ignored their efforts to address the content of proposed law. 

Hector Rodriguez, who heads up the socialist bloc in the Congress, said the bill promotes violence.

“Today (the opposition) has adopted a legal and political aberration with an arrogant attitude,” said Rodriguez.

The right-wing opposition coalition, known as the MUD, said that the so-called amnesty law would be one of its top priorities after it won parliamentary elections in December 2015.

Violent right-wing protests in February 2014, which sought the ouster of the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro, led to the deaths of 43 people, mostly government supporters and state security officials. 

Leopoldo Lopez, who once led the right-wing Popular Will party that actively promoted the protests, is currently serving a sentence of 13 years for his role in promoting the violence. His wife, Lilian Tintori, has been a vocal advocate for the amnesty law and celebrated its passing. 

In scenes reminiscent of the violence in 2014, two police officers were run down and killed by protesters who had commandeered a bus in the state of Tachira today. 

The bill extends amnesty for all “political prisoners” linked to a number of historical events, including the 2002 coup attempt against former President Hugo Chavez, the 2006 presidential election protests, the 2013 protests and violent blockades around the presidential elections following Chavez’s death, and multiple other events.

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