EU Awards Human Rights Prize to Venezuelan Opposition, European Left Boycotts

The European Parliament’s left caucus has rejected the transnational legislature’s decision to award the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Venezuela's right-wing opposition.

The European Parliament. (Archive)

The European Parliament. (Archive)
The European Parliament awarded its most prestigious human rights prize to the Venezuelan opposition despite protests from the left bloc. (Archive)
By Lucas Koerner
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Caracas, October 30, 2017 ( – The European Parliament’s left caucus has rejected the transnational legislature’s decision to award the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the “democratic opposition of Venezuela”.

“We express our regret over the European Parliament’s decision to award this year’s Sakharov Prize to the so-called ‘Venezuelan opposition,” declared Marie-Christine Vergiat, European United Left coordinator for the Sakharov Prize, in a statement Thursday.

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) was nominated for the top human rights prize by the center-right European People’s Party parliamentary bloc as well as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Speaking during a plenary session in Strasbourg, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani praised the AN for its “exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights”.

“Today we are supporting a nation’s freedom to struggle,” he declared. “We hereby express our full support for the National Assembly of Venezuela, the only democratically elected parliament,” he continued.

Elected in December 2015, the AN has been in contempt of court since July 2016 when it swore in three legislators under investigation for voter fraud, provoking an ongoing standoff with the judicial branch.

The country’s political crisis further deepened earlier this year when a pair of controversial Supreme Court rulings ignited four months of violent anti-government protests demanding early presidential elections.

In a bid to quell the violence, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro convened July 30 elections for a National Constituent Assembly to redraft the country’s constitution, which was rejected by the opposition, Washington, the European Parliament, and twelve regional governments.

Calling the nomination “politicized”, the European United Left has, however, vowed to boycott the award ceremony, which it says, “undermines any chances for dialogue but also for peace to prevail in any democracy”.

“Amongst this disparate group of opposition representatives are members of the Venezuelan far-right who… harbor ambitions of reviving some of the darkest chapters in Latin American history,” Vergiat affirmed.

AN President Julio Borges as well as Leopoldo Lopez and several other alleged “political prisoners” honored under the award were participants in an April 2002 US-backed coup that temporarily ousted then President Hugo Chavez.

The left bloc representative added that the move has “deprived other noteworthy nominees from highlighting their courageous struggles,” including Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak and Guatemalan environmental activist Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic.

Awarded by the European Parliament annually, the Sakharov Prize was established in 1988 and is named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.

AN President Julio Borges will be invited to receive the prize, which comes with a 50,000 euro award, in Strasbourg this December.