Venezuela Reforms National Anti-Terrorism Laws

This past Tuesday, the Venezuelan National Assembly passed new legislation reforming the country’s laws on organised crime and terrorism. The legislation widens the number of crimes under its competence and also increases maximum sentences for offenses.

By Ewan Robertson

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Venezuela’s National Assemly passed the reformed law on Tuesday this week (CdO)
Venezuela’s National Assemly passed the reformed law on Tuesday this week (CdO)
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Mérida, 2nd January 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – This past Tuesday, the Venezuelan National Assembly passed new legislation reforming the country’s laws on organised crime and terrorism. The legislation widens the number of crimes under its competence and also increases maximum sentences for offenses.

The reformed Law against Organised Crime and Financing of Terrorism contains 30 new and 25 revised articles. These widen the classification and penalties of crimes related to narco-trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, and the trafficking of humans, organs and arms, while establishing the maximum prison sentence allowed by the constitution of 25 to 30 years for those who commit an act of terrorism.

According to information outlined in the new legislation, the main aim of the law is to “prevent, investigate, pursue, classify, and sanction” these offenses.

“(It is) a strong law against terrorism and those who finance it”, said PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) representative Andres Eloy Mendez.

Opposition Stance

Members of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition in the National Assembly, grouped under the United Democratic Roundtable (MUD), have opposed the reform arguing that it is aimed at curbing political dissent against the government.

In a debate with PSUV legislator Elvis Amoroso on Venezuelan state television VTV on Monday, opposition representative Eduardo Gomez Sigala argued that the law’s definition of terrorism was too broad.

“It [the law] is an instrument to persecute citizens...it has a very wide definition [of terrorism] and isn’t precise” he claimed.

Amoroso responded that the opposition’s position on the law had been shaped by bad advice received on their part and pointed out that what constitutes a terrorist act is clearly defined in the new legislation.

Socialist legislator Mendez also pointed out that the law was not new and that the new reforms are “in concordance with international agreements and the national legal structure”. In changing the law the government is seeking to combat technological advances in organised crime with new classifications and increased penalties, he said.

According to Mendez, the law strengthens controls over suspicious movements of large sums of money in order to tackle money laundering, with bankers legally required to cooperate with authorities. The legislator also claimed that many opposition deputies opposed the reform due to their links with private banking interests.

The reformed law will now be passed to the country’s Supreme Court of Justice in order to determine the status that it will be given under the national constitution.