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  • The current assembly, with a right-wing majority, was sworn-in last week.

    The current assembly, with a right-wing majority, was sworn-in last week. | Photo: AVN

Published 11 January 2016
Opinion

The conservatives want all prisoners involved in coups and violence since 1999 to be released.

Lilian Tintori, the wife of former politician Leopoldo Lopez who was jailed for his role in causing the 2014 right-wing violence that lead to 43 deaths, spoke to Venezuela's National Assembly Monday in favor of an "amnesty" law.

Tintori was joined by other family members of prisoners and right-wing political leaders in presenting two proposals to the assembly for it to consider.

The so called amnesty law is one of the key projects Venezuela's new right-wing majority National Assembly is united around. It will free what the conservative lawmakers call "political prisoners," which will include Lopez, as well as a known coup supporter.

Tintori presented two proposals as possibilities: a legislative decree or a bill - the Law of Amnesty and National Reconciliation. Venezuelan laws are typically voted on twice: a draft is passed, discussed by the public, then approved by the assembly in a second vote. A legislative decree is not subject to this two stage process.

The Venezuelan Penal Forum coordinated the creation of the "amnesty" bill. In 2015, the United States State Department awarded the forum with a medal for its defense of the so-called political prisoners and for supposedly showing the "human rights violations" committed by the Venezuelan government against those who violated Venezuelans' human rights for four months in 2014.

From February 2014, sectors of the Venezuelan right — the then opposition to the ruling socialist party government — organized violent blockades that stopped millions of people from getting to work, hospitals, and schools for months. A significant amount of public property, including hundreds of buses, was destroyed and many people were killed and injured in the violence, which was aimed at overthrowing President Nicolas Maduro.

INDEPTH: Right-wing violence in Venezuela

There are issues surrounding the legality of passing an amnesty law as either a decree or a bill due to issues with fraud during December’s elections. Three right-wing legislators and one socialist legislator from Amazonas state are currently not able to swear in to their positions, as their electorates are being investigated for electoral fraud.

Should the lawmakers under investigation participate in any vote, that vote many be declared void or appealed in court. Constitutional lawyer Herman Escarra has further argued that because the three conservative legislators took up their seats on the first day of the new assembly on Jan. 5, any decisions or votes by the assembly have no constitutional validity. The action he argued, also created a conflict between branches of power: the parliament and the supreme court.

The "amnesty" law in Article 1 and 12 declares an amnesty for all "political prisoners" linked to the following events: the April 2002 coup; the Altamira "protests" in 2002 and 2003; the national lock-out of 2002 and 2003; the protests in 2003 related to the 2004 presidential recall referendum; the 2006 presidential election protests; the 2007 events around the non-renewal of the license of television channel RCTV; the 2013 "protests" around the presidential elections following the death of Hugo Chavez, in which 14 people — all Chavistas — were killed; the 2014 "protests" previously mentioned; as well as all actions that have been classified as a "betrayal" of the country, including military or civil "rebellion" or crimes against sovereignty or national independence or any other criminal prosecution with so called "political motivation" behind it.

In article 12.10 the law specifies that the amnesty is dated from Jan. 1, 1999 - the period when “Chavismo” socialism, as enacted by former President Hugo Chavez, begun.

Article 15 states that in the case of any doubts, the ruling should be favorable to amnesty. Once a petition is received for amnesty, courts have 48 hours to make a ruling.

ANALYSIS: Don’t Rely on Amnesty to Judge Amnesty Law in Venezuela

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