Puebla, Mexico, August 17, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) was set Friday to approve new anti-hate legislation, after endorsing a series of law and order proposals Thursday.
Under the proposed anti-hate crime legislation, perpetrators of “hate and intolerance” could face prison sentences of up to 25 years. According to the bill, a hate crime is defined as a violence perpetrated on the basis of a victim's race, religion, gender identification, sexual orientation, and/or political affiliation.
Supporters of the bill defend it as a necessary blow against violent anti-government groups, who may be responsible for as many as 30 deaths.
In particular, human rights advocates hope the bill will address impunity in the case of a series of Afro-Venezuelan men accused of being government supporters and allegedly lynched by opposition protesters. In one high profile case, 21-year-old Orlando Figuera was reportedly stabbed six times, doused in gasoline, and burned alive by opposition supporters in eastern Caracas on May 20.
However, some critics argue the proposal is vaguely worded.
"The proposal includes incredibly vague language that would allow them to jail anyone for almost anything," Tamara Taraciuk from Human Rights Watch claimed during an interview Reuters.
ANC head Delcy Rodriguez has endorsed the bill, arguing, “We have seen tweets, messages on social networks and photographs of opposition leaders responsible for convening and organising violent events in Venezuela.”
She has also stated the ANC’s recently instituted Truth Commission will seek to bar political candidates involved in violence or suspected hate crimes from participating in the upcoming regional elections, scheduled for October.
“We have decided to ask the CNE to send a complete list of gubernatorial candidates to the Truth Commission in order to determine if any of the them were involved in incidents of violence,” she said.
The proposal has also been backed by the country’s attorney general, Tarek William Saab, a long time human rights activist who previously served as national ombudsman.
The prosecutor said he will work alongside the Truth Commission to “identify who was responsible for each of the hate crimes that occurred in this country”.
“We will search the cameras, videos, photographs. We will get images of each one of them to make sure they pay for having killed, for having hurt people and left orphans behind,” he said earlier this week.
Friday’s ANC session comes a day after the body approved a series of proposals focused on law and order.
Among the most far sweeping of these reforms was a proposal to restructure the Attorney General’s office, which has been the centre of a long running dispute between the Maduro administration and one of its staunchest critics, recently-ousted attorney general Luisa Ortega.
On Wednesday, the Public Prosecution was shaken by corruption allegations, centred around accusations Ortega’s husband was involved in an extortion ring that granted immunity to defendants in exchange for payoffs. Both Ortega and her husband, German Ferrer, have denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, the ANC also approved the creation of a commission to investigate Wednesday’s violence at a prison in Puerto Ayacucho. An estimated 37 prisoners and 14 law enforcement officials died after a midnight gunfight between special forces and inmates who had seized control of the prison.