Puebla, Mexico, August 11, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called Thursday for tougher penalties on political violence, including 25 year prison terms for offenders.
“The time has come to overcome hate, intolerance, violence, persecution,” Maduro told the national constituent assembly (ANC). The ANC has the power to propose changes to Venezuela’s constitution, though any proposals will be put to a referendum.
Addressing the ANC, Maduro suggested the assembly draft a proposal to crack down on violent anti-government groups, which have been accused of potentially killing more than 30 people over the past four months.
“This law has a goal, to seek reunion, reunification and peace for all Venezuelans,” he said.
Under Maduro’s proposal, violent offenders involved in politically motivated killings or vandalism would face “15 to 25 years in prison”.
“The time has come for a great political process of raising awareness, punishing crimes of hatred [and] intolerance in all its forms,” Maduro said.
The new penalties would likely apply to perpetrators of killings such as that of 21 year old Orlando Figuera. Figuera was allegedly beaten and burned alive by anti-government protesters in May. The killing was allegedly prompted after protesters accused Figuera of supporting Maduro’s government, and has since sparked outrage on Venezuela’s left. There have been 34 reported cases of similar politically motivated attacks and burnings since this notorious case occured.
An estimated 1000 people are currently being detained by Venezuelan authorities in connection with political violence. However, independent estimates suggest as many as five times that figure have been arrested over the past four months amid widespread political unrest in Venezuela. This includes attacks on government buildings, roadblocks and attacks on civilians suspected of supporting the government. Around 50 opposition protesters and political figures are also suspected to have died amid the chaos.
Maduro’s proposal came as the ANC’s head Delcy Rodriguez announced a separate proposal to tackle the country’s institutional crisis. For months, Venezuela’s government has been largely paralysed by a series of disputes between the opposition controlled National Assembly, Maduro and the Supreme Court.
On Thursday, the ANC voted on a measure confirming its ability to propose reforms to all branches of government, ranging from the presidency to the judiciary.
"This regulation aims to repair the malfunction of the public branches," Rodriguez said.
Other recent proposals at the ANC include the establishment of a truth commission to review the political violence gripping the country, and calling for reform to Venezuela’s oil dominated economy.