Caracas, February 5th 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuela’s opposition controlled National Assembly officially accepted a proposal to pass an Amnesty and National Reconciliation Law on Thursday, which could lead to the release of tens of violent opposition protesters who are currently in jail, among others.
The controversial amnesty law was one of the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable's (MUD) principal campaign pledges ahead of last year’s legislative elections on December 6th, when the bloc took a two-third majority in the Venezuelan legislature.
If passed, the law could potentially set free tens of violent opposition barricaders who were arrested during the 2014 violence known as the “street barricades,” in which 43 Venezuelans, mostly security personnel and civilians, lost their lives.
In particular, the proposed law states that clemency will be provided for anyone arrested in relation to specific events in Tachira, Merida and Caracas in 2014 due to their participation in the violent actions- specifically, for burning public and private property, carrying out attacks on security personnel and endangering civilian lives.
Jailed politician, Leopoldo Lopez, is also tapped to be one of the chief beneficiaries of the legislation. The lawyer-come-politician was sentenced to thirteen years and nine months in prison in 2015 for calling on his followers to participate in the violence and attempt to force the overthrow of the nationally elected government.
But the legislation also goes beyond events in 2014. Anyone sentenced to prison since January 1st 1999 for one or several of the twenty-three crimes singled out for clemency in the legislation’s articles, will also be released.
“The countless number of public employees of all sectors in the public administration who feel victims of persecution and harassment at work, know that they are also included in the Amnesty Law,” stated MUD legislator, Delsa Solórzano.
Although MUD deputies have touted the law as a way to move past “17 years of hate and division”, the government has said that the legislation will mean “impunity” for criminals. It has promised to oppose any attempt to release the protesters or Lopez.
“We call on the rightwing bloc to desist from committing this crime which they are attempting to commit. To do this would be to damage the constitution, dissolve our social state of law and justice … The institutionalisation of impunity would reign supreme,” said legislator Ilenia Medina for the government affiliated Homeland for All party.
It is still uncertain whether Lopez could actually be freed via an act of clemency as the lawyer is alleged to have already benefited from an amnesty law in 2002 when former president Hugo Chavez officially pardoned those involved in an opposition coup to unseat him.
The proposed legislation has now been passed to the parliament’s Permanent Political Commission where, if approved, it will be returned to the National Assembly for second discussion.
Although the legislation will almost certainly be approved by the majority opposition coalition in the National Assembly, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has the power to block the law. In this scenario, the legislation will then be sent to the Supreme Court of Justice to decide if it violates the constitution.
The granting of amnesty to anyone convicted of human rights abuses is strictly forbidden in Venezuela’s 1999 Bolivarian Constitution.
Nonetheless, opposition spokespeople have assured the press that no article in the legislation will allow clemency for those convicted of human rights violations, rape or homicide.
“It is not unconstitutional in any way,” declared MUD legislator, Tomas Guanipa.