Venezuelan Government and Opposition Fraction Announce Release of 14 ‘Political Prisoners’

The National Roundtable for Peaceful Dialogue also offered its backing to the new National Assembly president, Luis Parra.

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Members of the National Roundtable for Peaceful Dialogue meet in Caracas’ Melia Hotel on Monday before announcing the release of 14 “political prisoners.” (@VTVCANAL8 / Twitter)
Members of the National Roundtable for Peaceful Dialogue meet in Caracas’ Melia Hotel on Monday before announcing the release of 14 “political prisoners.” (@VTVCANAL8 / Twitter)

Mérida, January 6, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The National Roundtable for Peaceful Dialogue announced the release of 14 more jailed opposition figures on Monday.

The majority of those freed had been arrested during the 2014 and 2017 anti-government street protests which looked to oust President Nicolas Maduro by force, leaving over 40 and 120 people dead respectively.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition delegation at the talks, evangelical former presidential candidate Javier Bertucci told reporters further releases are being evaluated on a “case-to-case basis,” with more citizens expected to be freed in the coming days.

Prisoner release was a key request by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet following her visit to Caracas in June. Despite the release of 29 right-wing activists at the start of the dialogue in September, opposition politicians accused authorities of failing to comply with agreements to free more individuals in December. Former presidential candidate Henri Falcon even threatened to walk away from the talks should more citizens not be freed.

The roundtable brings together the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), a number of minority opposition parties, as well as civil leaders including the Catholic Church. Larger opposition parties such as Democratic Action, Popular Will, and First Justice have refused to take part, despite reportedly having been invited, while smaller pro-government parties have denounced that they have been excluded from the talks, including Homeland for All (PPT) and the Communist Party (PCV).

Monday’s meeting came after self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido failed to secure reelection as head of the National Assembly’s (AN) on Sunday, being replaced by the more moderate opposition lawmaker Luis Parra.

Participants in the dialogue are due to meet the new National Assembly leadership in the coming days, with Bertucci condemning Guaido’s efforts to establish a parallel parliament at the El Nacional newspaper offices Sunday night.

The pastor also stressed the need to “put egos and parties to one side” and return a level of “institutionalism” in order for the country to avoid “further anarchy,” while insisting that the government work to reverse a 2016 Supreme Court ruling declaring the AN in “contempt of court” as part of a broader institutional standoff. Bertucci also indicated that the roundtable will urge the new AN leadership to approve a swift renovation of the National Electoral Council (CNE), paving the way for the convening of parliamentary elections this year.

Speaking on behalf of the government delegation at the talks, Francisco Torrealba added that the roundtable will propose that the new CNE leadership allow any previously invalidated political party which desires to participate in the upcoming elections to do so. Right-wing parties Democratic Action, First Justice, and Popular Will were absent from the ballot in 2018 after their party status expired.

Torrealba made no mention, however, of individual politicians barred from holding office for alleged criminal activity, including Guaido and his mentor, Leopoldo Lopez.

Finally, Torrealba revealed that the roundtable is due to urge the AN leadership to amend the law on electoral processes to allow for a greater representation of minority parties, as well as drawing attention to the “dire” situation of the National Assembly workers, encouraging the new leadership to “respect labour obligations.”

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