LATIN AMERICA

Venezuelan opposition rallies support for amnesty of political prisoners

Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader, will tour country under the banner “All for Liberty”

Lilian Tintori, in Madrid in front of a photo of her husband, Leopoldo López.
Lilian Tintori, in Madrid in front of a photo of her husband, Leopoldo López.EFE

Venezuela’s opposition has begun a race against time to garner international support for a draft amnesty and national reconciliation law, approved on Tuesday by the country’s parliament, but which can be overruled by the Supreme Court. Over the next nine days, President Nicolás Maduro, who has said he does not support the proposal, will have to decide whether to promulgate the law, which would see the release of some 78 political prisoners, or send it to the Supreme Court on the grounds it is unconstitutional. Opposition leaders fear the latter option is the most likely.

Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo López, along with deputies and members of his Popular Will (VP) party, which in turn is part of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the umbrella opposition organization, will be traveling throughout the country under the banner All for Liberty to rally support. “We want to organize meetings in favor of passing the law. We will also be visiting neighboring countries, because this is one of the most important opportunities to get political prisoners released and for democracy to return to Venezuela, and for that to happen we need international support,” said Tintori.

If President Maduro is prepared to meet with Colombian guerrillas, why can’t he accept an amnesty for political prisoners Lilian Tintori

“If President Maduro is prepared to meet with Colombian guerrillas, why can’t he accept an amnesty for political prisoners?” asked Tintori, referring to Venezuela’s role in the ongoing peace process in neighboring Colombia between the government and left-wing rebels who have waged a decades-long fight. “He talks about peace and freedom, but his actions show the opposite,” she added.

Leopoldo López is serving a 13-year sentence for staging demonstrations and other protests in a bid to bring down Maduro’s minority government. His wife says he is being held in solitary confinement and that the family has been subjected to harassment. She says he was transferred to hospital on Wednesday for a routine checkup, but that she was not informed. “I was very upset, because I didn’t know where they were taking him,” she said, adding: “At least he is receiving medical attention, unlike other political prisoners, who are in poor health. This is inhumane.”

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World leaders such as Barack Obama and Argentinian president Mauricio Macri, along with international human rights groups, have spoken out against the incarceration of political prisoners in Venezuela. The government accuses the opposition of attempting to garner international support to overthrow Maduro, whose United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was delivered a stunning blow by voters in December’ legislative elections. The opposition now controls two-thirds of the 167-member legislative body with 112 seats, giving it enough parliamentary power to reform the Constitution and carry out votes of censure against the vice president and government ministers.

The opposition says it fears Maduro will appeal to the Supreme Court to throw out the amnesty proposal.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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